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COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12-15: Answers for parents

Health

COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12-15: Answers for parents

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the green light for children and teens ages 12-15 to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The decision has prompted excitement among many parents eager to have their children vaccinated and protected against the disease. Other parents remain hesitant or have questions, unsure if giving the vaccine to their child is the right thing to do.
We reached out to Dr. Lucretia Carter, a pediatrician at Tidelands Health Pediatrics with a background in virology and vaccine development, for answers to common questions parents may have.

When will children ages 12-15 be able to receive the vaccine?

Now that the federal government has authorized use of the vaccine among this age group, shots are already underway.

Everything I’ve read says children are less likely to get sick from COVID-19, so what’s the benefit of vaccinating them?

Children are less likely than adults to suffer serious complications from COVID-19, but they can – and do – become ill from the virus, Dr. Carter says. Public health experts are also investigating whether children may be more susceptible to illness from the emerging COVID-19 variants than the original strain.
In addition, COVID-19 has been associated with 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.

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Another major benefit of vaccination is that vaccinated children are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others, including family members who may be more likely to suffer from serious – and potentially life-threatening – complications from the virus.
Plus, by having your child vaccinated, you can help protect the health of the community. Even if a child doesn’t experience symptoms from a COVID-19 infection, each infection provides an opportunity for the virus to mutate and create a new and potentially more dangerous variant.

How effective is the vaccine among children ages 12-15?

In a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 2,260 children ages 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.
Those results indicate the vaccine is quite effective at preventing the disease, Dr. Carter says. The FDA found that immune response among children and teens ages 12-15 was at least as strong as the immune response experienced by older people who received the vaccine.

What about temporary symptoms?

The temporary post-vaccination symptoms experienced by children in this age group were similar to those experienced by people 16 and older.

Pop-up vaccination clinics in Georgetown

Receive the COVID-19 vaccine at one of several upcoming pop-up vaccination clinics hosted by Tidelands Health in partnership with the Georgetown County School District.  Anyone ages 12 and older is eligible to receive vaccine at these pop-up clinics at area high schools. For dates, times and more, please click here.

The most common temporary symptoms 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, which is consistent with people ages 16 and older.
Of course, it’s common to experience benign temporary symptoms from a vaccine, which indicate the body is responding the way it’s supposed to. Because of the rigorous vaccine safety measures in place, serious adverse reactions to vaccines are rare.

What about long-term safety?

There’s no evidence the vaccine poses any long-term risk to adults or children, Dr. Carter says. Historically, adverse reactions to a vaccine happen within the first six week after administration.
To date, more than one billion doses of vaccine have been administered across the world, and there have been few reports of serious adverse side effects.

Can my child receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

No. Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for use among minors. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently only authorized for people 18 and older.

What about vaccination among younger children?

Although studies are underway to determine the efficacy and safety of the vaccine among children younger than 12, children in that age group likely won’t be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine until later this year or early next year.

Would you give your teenagers the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, without hesitation. Rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has taken place under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history, and the results show the vaccine is both safe and effective. As a physician, I wouldn’t encourage my patients to receive the vaccine unless I was comfortable receiving it myself of giving it to my own children.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Lucretia Carter

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