What is the role of Children in Community Immunity?
Children make up a huge part of our population! With that being said, vaccinating children must be part of our strategy to control this virus. Vaccines have the power to stop epidemics, so vaccinating children does have a role in stopping the spread and preventing the emergence of new variants.
Is the vaccine safe?
The COVID-19 vaccine is a powerful tool that will lead us to end the death caused by COVID. The safety of the COVID-19 vaccine is essentially the same that it is for all vaccine trials.
Pfizer announced its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 was 100% effective in preventing infection. In the trial, none of the 1,129 children who were vaccinated were infected with the virus (as opposed to 18 cases of COVID-19 observed in the 1,129 who were enrolled in the placebo group). All who were vaccinated produced strong antibody responses and experienced no serious side effects.
The expectation for the adult phase 3 trials is 2 years of safety follow-up, it is longer than other vaccines. Most side effects from all vaccines will occur in the first six weeks after someone gets the vaccine.
Speaking of, what are the short and long-term side effects in children receiving the vaccine?
Even though the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, there are some short-term side effects that can be anticipated. In trials, while some adolescents had no side effects, some had similar effects to adults: headaches, fever, body aches, and fatigue. These side effects usually go away in a day or so. As for the long-term side effects – Historically, if side effects are going to happen from a vaccine, they usually appear immediately to a few weeks after…usually within 6 weeks of the dose. The vaccine is safe for teens in puberty as well as for pregnant individuals and people who wish to become pregnant. It is important to note that there is no biological mechanism that connects the vaccine to child development, puberty, or fertility. The vaccine simply doesn’t work that way in the body.
The COVID-19 vaccine bumps up the immune system by teaching it to recognize the virus and create antibodies to fight it. The Pfizer vaccine does not contain any live or dead component of the virus. Instead, it is made up of nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of all our cells. Once they’ve done their job to create antibodies, they fall apart and are eliminated. They go away and do not stay in your body. With millions of people already receiving the vaccine, there are women who are pregnant who received the vaccine and also women who got pregnant after receiving the vaccine. Doctors have watched these cases closely, and have reported no safety problems. There is no evidence that any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine, cause fertility side effects.
When will the vaccines be available for younger ages?
The whole timing of vaccines for children of younger ages will depend on the results of the trials of the vaccine in people of older ages that are underway now. In regards to the Pfizer vaccine, the clinical trials of the vaccine in children under the age of 12 have begun. Moderna has also been testing its vaccine in children and is expecting the results from the trial in adolescents ages 12 to 17. AstraZeneca started testing its vaccine in children 6 months and older last month. Lastly, Johnson and Johnson has decided to wait for results from trials in older children before testing its vaccine in children under 12.
Why are children making up higher percentages of COVID cases?
Many researchers are tracking the reasoning behind the trend of why the case percentages in children are increasing. Though more Americans have been getting vaccinated, more children have been getting infected, making up to 24% of the new cases in the recent reports. It is believed that this is because of the transmission of COVID is now being seen in those who aren’t vaccinated (mostly children and young adults), new COVID-19 variants, and combined loosening of restrictions on school activities such as sports. The good news is that now the vaccine has been approved starting from age 12 and as a pediatrician, I do recommend it after close discussion with your teen and his/her pediatrician.