By April N. Kapu, DNP, APRN, ACNP- BC, FAANP, FCCM, FAAN
COVID-19 vaccinations are now available for children aged 5-11, giving parents a critical tool to help protect their families and community members — including their children’s classmates and teachers — from contracting COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the vaccines for younger children on November 2. Here’s what parents need to know to make an informed decision about vaccinating their younger children.
Is the Vaccine Safe for Kids?
NPs are joining with other health care providers and public health officials in encouraging parents to vaccinate their eligible children. Results from clinical trials of younger children have shown the vaccine is both safe and effective.
The side effects most frequently identified among children have been mild, similar to those in adults, with a sore arm being the most frequent symptom. For information on how best to care for your child before, during and after their vaccine, ask your NP or visit the CDC website for tips.
According to the CDC, vaccinating children aged 5-11 could prevent at least 600,000 COVID-19 infections as well as reduce pediatric hospitalizations and deaths.
It’s understandable that parents will have questions and concerns about vaccinating younger children. We encourage parents to speak with their NP or other trusted health care provider.
Will Young Children Geth the Same Vaccine as Adults?
Children under 12 years of age will receive the same formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as adults, at one-third the dose adults receive. The two-shot regimen will be administered at least three weeks apart, using a smaller, thinner pediatric needle.
When and Where Can My Child Be Vaccinated?
Pediatric doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed immediately, with increasing availability beginning the week of November 8. Parents should contact their children’s NP or other pediatric health care provider to schedule a vaccination in the primary care setting or seek vaccination at one of the 100 children’s hospitals, school- and community-based temporary clinics or pharmacies that will offer pediatric vaccinations.
My Child Already Had COVID-19. Why Should They Get the Vaccine?
A recent study by Yale University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has shown that unvaccinated people may be reinfected with COVID-19 every 16 to 17 months. While the virus is typically less severe in children than adults, approximately 1.9 million U.S. kids in the 5-11 age group have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 8,300 children who were hospitalized — and one-third of those required intensive care. Sadly, 94 pediatric deaths have been confirmed in the U.S., making COVID-19 the eighth leading cause of death among children.
After more than a year-long effort to study the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine and its effectiveness in children, NPs strongly encourage parents to schedule vaccinations for their eligible family members aged 5 to adult. Vaccination gives children — and their families — the very best shot at a healthy, happy holiday season.