What Parents Should Know About COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids
We here at CA know the importance of health and wellness in this community. Now that kiddos in the 5-11 age group are getting fully vaccinated, it feels like one step closer to normal for all of us. We know that you are your child’s fiercest protector, and an added layer of protection brings a rush of relief. It’s also natural that you may have questions or concerns about the vaccine.
To tackle those head-on, we consulted CA Medical Director Dr. Harry Oken, who shared what parents should know about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine for kids.
The benefits of the vaccine
First things first: The CDC encourages everyone ages five and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Ditto with the Howard County Health Department, which states on its website: “The more people who are vaccinated, the closer we all come to ending this pandemic. Beginning to vaccinate children means a safer experience for in-person school, in-person sports and gatherings with friends and family.”
It is such an important issue that the Health Department, County Executive and HCPSS signed a joint letter, urging all parents to get their young children vaccinated and stressing that the authorization process is “the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.”
Because many children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or none at all, Dr. Oken understands why some parents might wonder if the benefits outweigh the risks. The COVID-19 mortality rate is exceptionally low for children (among the 0-9 age group in Maryland, it’s currently at .00009135%).
That said, according to Dr. Oken, the data is clear that “the benefits are high, the risks are low, and all who are eligible should move forward and get vaccinated.”
First, it’s important to understand that children who get COVID-19 aren’t automatically granted a symptom-free ride. Some are at an elevated risk of complications, and some have died. The death toll in the past year has put COVID-19 as one of the top ten causes of death for children ages 5-11.
If your child has asthma, heart disease, obesity, sickle cell disease, or any underlying condition that weakens the immune system, they’re more likely to become severely ill if infected — and these children in particular should receive the vaccine as soon as possible, says Dr. Oken.
Even if your child is perfectly healthy, they can still bring the virus home or infect someone who is more vulnerable to complications. Getting them vaccinated helps prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19, which protects the community.
“One of the things we know for certain is that unvaccinated areas have higher complication rates, death rates, and hospital rates. That figure has held steady,” says Dr. Oken. “Children and adults who are fully vaccinated have a significantly reduced chance of being hospitalized and needing supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation.”
Reduce the risk of long-haulers + MIS-C
Another important reason kids and teens should consider getting vaccinated is to reduce the risk of long-hauler syndrome. Long-haulers is a phenomenon where someone no longer tests positive for COVID-19, but they don’t fully recover. What’s most startling is that we don’t know why it happens.
“A lot of young people think they’ll be fine because they’re young, but long-haulers can deal with chronic fatigue, persistent loss of smell and taste, shortness of breath, or other lingering symptoms,” explains Dr. Oken. “It can take months or even years to recover.”
While there’s no treatment or cure for long-haulers, vaccination is the best strategy for prevention. It’s equally important for helping to prevent multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a syndrome linked to COVID-19 where some organs and tissues become severely inflamed in children. MIS-C appears to be an excessive immune response to the virus, which can lead to serious damage.
“Children who get vaccinated are less likely to get COVID-19, which in turn means they’re less likely to develop MIS-C,” says Dr. Oken.
Concerns over myocarditis + allergic reactions
Dr. Oken says one fear that parents have is about the possibility of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), which has been reported after some COVID-19 vaccinations in male adolescents.
“Considering the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses administered, reports of myocarditis are extremely, extremely rare,” he says. “A young person is much more likely to experience this issue as a complication of COVID-19, rather than the vaccine. Plus, in almost all cases, myocarditis is mild and resolves quickly.”
Another concern is the possibility of an allergic reaction. According to Hocovaccines.org, current estimates show that allergic reactions occur in about 2 to 11 people for every million vaccine doses given. That’s the reason that you have to wait for 15 minutes before leaving the clinic. The website goes on to explain: “People who have a history of allergy are more likely to have a reaction, which is why the person giving the vaccine will ask questions about allergies when you arrive. And, while rare, when an allergic reaction does occur, it happens right after vaccination and it is treatable.”
Resources for parents
The bottom line? The COVID-19 vaccination for kids is a safe path forward to greater normalcy. Getting your kids vaccinated can help restore your peace of mind in allowing them to return to their favorite activities more fully. And, let’s be real, doing so is wonderful for everyone’s mental health.
Learn more on the CDC’s web page. Their child-focused FAQs are also pretty comprehensive.
The Howard County Health Department is a great resource for vaccination clinic locations. Shots are available at pediatricians’ offices, the Howard County Health Department’s clinics, local pharmacies and Howard Community College. Hocovaccines.org also contains helpful information for parents.
The State of Maryland also provides a page where you can search for a vaccination clinic. Visit coronavirus.
Share your experience with us!
CA wants to celebrate this milestone with our community! Share your vaccine story through photos or video and let us know what you’re looking forward to most now that our kids can be protected. You can do that on any of our social media pages (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). We’ll be looking for opportunities to pass those along to the thousands of people who follow us.
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