The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed daily life for essentially every person on the planet. When vaccines for adults were announced in the spring of 2021, many breathed a sigh of relief. But a huge portion of the world’s population—young children—were left unprotected. That meant that parents and children ages 12 and up who were vaccinated still couldn’t fully engage with their work, play, or other activities because younger children were still at risk.
However, on Oct. 29, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. While that vaccine is still administered through two injections three weeks apart, it is one-third the size of the dose given to people 12 and older, with only 10 micrograms rather than 30.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?
There has been a lot of misinformation and disinformation spread about the Pfizer-BioNTech and other COVID-19 vaccines, but they have been proven safe. In the study involving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children, 3,100 children ages 5 to 11 received the vaccine with no serious side effects detected.
What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects for children?
There have been some common side effects, such as a sore arm, as well as other less-common side effects such as redness and swelling, fatigue, headache, fever, chills, muscle and/or joint pain, nausea, decreased appetite, and swollen lymph nodes. All of those side effects, though, were mild to moderate in severity. They occurred within the first few days after the injection, and they cleared up in a single day or two. Overall, the children’s dose caused fewer of these reactions than the adult dose, likely because of the smaller dose size.
What is the COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness rate for children?
In other good news, as with the adult dose, the vaccine has proven to be highly effective in children, with an efficacy of 90.7% in preventing COVID-19 in children aged 5 to 11. In clinical studies, the placebo group (the group not given the actual vaccine) consisted of 663 children, and 16 contracted COVID-19. However, in the vaccine group of 1,305 children, only 3 children who received the vaccine contracted the disease.
Why should I give my child the COVID vaccine?
Vaccination makes sense for children ages 5 through 11. That’s especially true for children who have an underlying condition, such as asthma or an immunosuppressive disease. They are more at risk of experiencing severe illness compared to their healthy peers. Children also can spread the disease to others, so vaccinating them can help reduce that spread.
The risk of children having serious side effects from the vaccine is low. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control weighed the risk of the vaccine causing myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heart) that were found in some children ages 12 through 17 after receiving the vaccine. Both conditions were usually mild and ceased after just a few days. Both agencies agreed that the benefits of the vaccine would heavily outweigh any risks that might occur for children ages 5 through 11.
Children are at lower risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms, but they still can get very sick, become hospitalized, or may die from the disease. During the week of Oct. 10, children ages 5 through 11 made up 10.6% of all cases of COVID in the United States. This was largely due to the reopening of schools at the same time that the Delta variant was spreading rapidly. Children in this age group had a higher rate of antibody detection than adults, meaning that many children have been exposed to the disease since it began spreading in March 2020.
While most children may not experience serious disease symptoms, many still do. Of the 1.9 million cases found in children ages 5 through 11, according to the CDC, about 8,300 children were hospitalized and 94 have died. Deaths in children are quite rare from the disease, but COVID-19 became the 8th most common cause of death in children ages 5 through 11 in 2021.
COVID-19 causes both short- and long-term complications in children. They are less common than in adults, but a national survey conducted in the United Kingdom found that 7 to 8% of children were still experiencing symptoms more than 12 weeks after their initial infection date. That can result in missed days at school, mental health challenges, and physical issues such as fatigue, insomnia, headache, pain, cough, and trouble concentrating.
What is MIS-C?
A condition that has appeared particularly in children is called MIS-C, which stands for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. The condition is a serious one and is associated with COVID-19 infection. It results in the inflammation of multiple body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidney, brain, eyes, skin, or organs found along the gastrointestinal tract. MIS-C occurs anywhere from two to six weeks after the initial COVID-19 infection, and it causes a large number of complications. About 1 in every 3,200 children who have COVID-19 end up getting MIS-C. Of those children, 60 to 70% are admitted to the intensive care unit, and between 1 and 2% die. Vaccination greatly lowers the risk of contracting COVID-19 and thus lowers the risk of this serious condition.
Vaccination is a safe, easy way to help control the spread of COVID-19. While children tend to have fewer and less serious symptoms than adults, they can still become very sick and even die if they contract COVID-19. According to all reputable studies, vaccination is less likely to cause problems for children than a case of COVID-19.