Should I Vaccinate My Young Child Against COVID-19?

Published: November 17, 2021

Sanford L. Swidler, Stamford Health Medical Group Pediatrics and Asha K. Shah, Associate Director of Infectious Diseases, Stamford Health

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The CDC and FDA recently authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children 5-11 years old. Approval for 12-15 year-olds occurred in May 2021, and millions in that age range have been safely vaccinated.

For children 5-11, a lower-strength formulation of the vaccine will be given, and has been shown to be just as effective in protecting them from COVID-19. 

We sat down with Sanford L. Swidler of Stamford Health Medical Group Pediatrics and Asha K. Shah, Director of Infectious Diseases at Stamford Health, to address some of the most common questions and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

Should my kid get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Swidler:
The short answer is, yes. The longer answer: as pediatricians, we believe in the effectiveness of vaccines in general. Specifically, for the COVID-19 vaccine, the efficacy rates are exceptional, and we are quite confident of its safety. There are no vaccines I can think of that have ever been a problem for the 5-and-older group once shown to be safe and effective in adults. Again, we strongly believe the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for anyone 5-years-old and older.

Dr. Shah:
We can confirm that the vaccine is safe for this newly eligible population based on the clinical trials, and everything we have learned so far from age groups that have already had the vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children 5 and over. But why should they get vaccinated if we are seeing fewer cases in Connecticut, anyway?

Dr. Swidler:
Two things can happen: 1; Children can get sick from COVID-19 and pass it onto others even if they do not have symptoms and 2; Though rare, some children can have severe complications from COVID-19 such as multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).

Dr. Shah:
Exactly what Dr. Swidler said! As a mother myself, I want to see all our kids’ lives become normal again. Unless they are vaccinated, they’re going to have to continue to practice social distancing, mask-wearing and limit their extracurricular activities.

What are some major concerns from parents that you have seen first-hand and how can you put their potentially worried minds at ease?

Dr. Swidler:
COVID-19 aside, some people are extremely vaccine hesitant no matter what. If it’s not mandatory, they just won’t do it. All we can do as pediatricians is practice what we preach: communicate our firm stance on the effectiveness of vaccines. Getting vaccinated is simply a good personal and public health decision.

Dr. Shah:
Parents are concerned about the long-term effects from this vaccine since these are new, but all of the data show that they are safe and highly effective against COVID-19.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause fertility problems for young girls?

Dr. Swidler:
No! While reported frequently in the media, it is totally false that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in anyone, including maturing girls.

Dr. Shah:
This is a myth. There is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that these vaccines affect a female’s fertility.

My child already had COVID-19. Should they still get vaccinated?

Dr. Swidler:
Kids who have already had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated.

Dr. Shah:
When you have had the actual COVID-19 infection, no one really knows how long your immunity lasts. The immunity you get from vaccination is thought to last much longer than the immunity you get from having COVID-19 itself. So that’s why kids who have had COVID-19 should get vaccinated. Your child can get vaccinated 14 days after being diagnosed, as long as their symptoms have resolved.

Are COVID-19 vaccine side effects the same for children as for adults?

Dr. Swidler:
More or less, yes. Kids ages 12-16 have very similar side effects to adults. There is a mildly higher percentage of fevers among kids 12-16 after the vaccine versus in adults, but nothing significantly different. In the younger age group, side effects seem to be similar or even less. 

Dr. Shah:
Because most kids have a robust immune system, it’s not surprising that they could have slightly increased instances of fever. Studies are still being done on side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in kids, but time will also tell.

What are the most important points you want parents to remember about vaccinating their kids against COVID-19?

Drs. Swidler and Shah:
1. The vaccine is safe according to clinical trials and as determined by the FDA and CDC.
2. Though rare, some children can get seriously ill and have life-threatening complications from COVID-19. The vaccine is a solution, so please strongly consider it.
3. Kids can be asymptomatic carriers, too. Vaccinating them will further protect the community from ongoing spread of infection.
4. Consider that many schools have begun to require vaccines.

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Infectious Disease, Internal Medicine

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