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COVID-19 vaccine and kids: What symptoms to expect?

Health

COVID-19 vaccine and kids: What symptoms to expect?

Nearly 17 million children became eligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine when the CDC gave the go-ahead for kids ages 12-15 to receive the vaccine in May.
The decision was a milestone in the pandemic and an important step in helping kids safely return to summer camps and resume sports and other activities important to their health and development.
One common question many parents have is whether children will experience temporary symptoms from the vaccine, and how those symptoms compare with the symptoms older teens and adults can experience.
Of course, as with many vaccines, it’s normal for children to experience temporary, benign symptoms such as fever, fatigue and soreness at the injection site from the COVID-19 vaccine.
These symptoms typically disappear within a day or two. And the body’s reaction is a good sign – it means the vaccine is working as intended and generating an immune system response (although it’s perfectly normal and quite common not to experience a reaction to the vaccine, too).

So what kind of temporary symptoms do children experience?

In a clinical trial involving more than 2,000 children ages 12-15, researchers found that the temporary symptoms experienced by children in that age group were similar to those experienced by people 16 and older.
The most common symptoms from the COVID-19 vaccine were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, fever, joint pain and chills. With the exception of pain at the injection site, symptoms were more common after the second dose of the vaccine, a finding that’s consistent with people ages 16 and older.
“We want people to anticipate a temporary response, even if many of them won’t experience one,” says Dr. Lucretia Carter, a pediatrician at Tidelands Health Pediatrics with a background in virology and vaccine development. “That’s important for planning purposes, plus it’s vital people know what to expect so they complete the two-dose series and benefit from maximum protection from the vaccine.”

Highly effective

The clinical trial also found the vaccine to be extremely effective at preventing COVID-19 among children 12-15. There were no cases of COVID-19 among children who received the vaccine, while there were 18 cases of the illness among children who received the placebo. No serious adverse reactions were reported.
Although children are less likely than adults to suffer serious complications from COVID-19, they can – and do – become ill from the virus and have made up an increasingly large percentage of new COVID-19 cases as older populations have become vaccinated.

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COVID-19 has also been linked to a condition known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Most commonly diagnosed among children ages 1-14 years old, MIS-C can cause inflammation in certain parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs. The cause remains under investigation, but many children with MIS-C have had the virus that causes COVID-19 or been around someone with the illness.
“I’d encourage parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, both for the health and wellness of their kids as well as to protect family members and our community,” Dr. Carter says. “The vaccine has been shown to be both safe and effective, and widespread vaccination is the best way for us to put this pandemic behind us and get back to our normal way of life.”

Meet the Expert

Dr. Lucretia Carter

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