COVID-19 vaccines for the pediatric population: Everything parents need to know
Author: Asha Shah, MD, MS, director of infectious diseases at Stamford Health
In mid-June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years old should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Distribution of vaccines among the pediatric population has started across the country and here at Stamford Health, but many parents understandably have questions. Here is some information to help you decide which vaccine may be best for your child.
Should my young child get the COVID-19 vaccine?
I would recommend that parents get their young kids vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is part of the public health response to this pandemic and will potentially get us closer to herd immunity. We know that these vaccines are safe and effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalization.
My child recently had COVID-19 do they need to get vaccinated?
Having COVID-19 in the past does not necessarily protect you from getting COVID-19 again in the future. New variants continue to develop and we've already seen patients become infected with different strains of the virus.
Having a history of COVID-19 is not a contraindication to getting the COVID-19 vaccine because the protection you get from the natural immunity only lasts so long. Getting the vaccine enhances that protection and keeps your child safer from future infections.
Should I wait to get my child vaccinated until the start of the school year or before a vacation?
Now is the time to schedule vaccination appointments for a few reasons. First of all, we are still seeing a fair amount of COVID-19 circulating in the community in Fairfield County. Secondly, it takes a while for children in this age group to get that full protection because of the number of shots that are needed, and the time period those shots are spaced out. For example, if a child is getting a Moderna vaccine, it would take at least 10 weeks to get the full protection from the vaccine.
Which vaccine should I get for my child?
There are two COVID-19 vaccine options for the pediatric population. The first option for kids aged 6 months to 4 years old is Pfizer and it is a three-shot series. The first two shots are given from 3-8 weeks apart, depending on your child’s medical conditions. Then the third shot is given 8 weeks after the second.
The second option for 6-month-olds to 5-year-olds is Moderna, which is a two-shot series, given anywhere from 4-8 weeks apart. In general, full protection kicks in about two weeks after the last shot for both vaccines.
The efficacy of both vaccines is similar and both are considered safe. The biggest difference in the vaccines is the timeline outlined above.
What are the side effects for young kids?
The most common side effects we’re seeing with both vaccines were injection site pain/swelling, irritability, decreased appetite, fussiness, and fever, which was more commonly seen with the Moderna trial participants. In both trials, these side effects resolved over a period of a day or two with Tylenol or Ibuprofen and there were no long-standing effects seen.
How will this vaccine fit into my child's vaccination schedule?
If you have a question about how this vaccine fits into your child's immunization schedule, it's something that you'd want to discuss with your pediatrician. Right now, we know that the COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time as other vaccines. How those are administered with your child's other routine immunizations is something that can be determined by your pediatrician.
Stamford Health will be offering vaccinations for this age group until Sept. 30. You can schedule an appointment here. If you have further questions about the vaccines, do not hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician or health care provider.
About the Author
Asha Shah, MD, MS, is the director of infectious diseases at Stamford Health.