As a pediatrician, I see first-hand the rollercoaster of emotions parents go through regarding the recent emergency use approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. While some parents are elated by the approval, others have described the process of deciding whether or not to vaccinate their young children as the most nerve-wracking experience they’ve had as parents.
I work with parents to try to allay fears and separate fact from fiction. With a vast array of news sources, social media discussions, and new discoveries, I sympathize with parents trying to navigate a torrent of misinformation in the face of a devastating disease. The vaccine’s safety is proven, and its efficacy is not in question. Bottom line, vaccinating against COVID-19 is safer than getting the actual disease. I will vaccinate my children when they become eligible to receive the vaccine.
While I recommend speaking to your own pediatrician about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, I have put together a list of answers to the questions that dominate many of my patients’ visits, in order to help parents with this important decision for their families.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)?
Thus far, no children in the clinical trials conducted for the vaccine experienced myocarditis. The condition was reported in 54 individuals out of 2.5 million in a study of people ages 16 years and older. Of those, 76% were considered mild. Of note, there is a much higher likelihood of developing myocarditis from COVID-19 infection than the vaccine. Children and adults are considered at low risk for developing myocarditis from the vaccine.
Isn’t this technology too new and untested to give to children?
While the COVID-19 vaccine is as new as the virus itself, mRNA vaccine technology has been around for nearly two decades and has been rigorously studied. Another concern parents have is whether the vaccine alters a person’s DNA. It does not. In fact, the mRNA vaccine does not contain any pieces of the virus. Rather, it trains our own bodies to make the antibodies needed to fight the disease.
The studies of the COVID-19 vaccine in children in the U.S. involved 4,500 kids, far fewer participants than adult trials, but the results were overwhelmingly positive with very few side effects reported.
I’ve read a lot on the internet about the vaccine affecting fertility. Is it true?
There is no link between vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, and fertility issues in women or men. This persistent myth has been debunked time and again, by the American Medical Association, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other reputable medical societies and institutions.
If COVID-19 has resulted in very few deaths of children, why does my child need a vaccine?
Vaccines minimize the risk of infections and complications for children and for the more vulnerable individuals in their lives. Thankfully, the number of pediatric deaths from COVID-19 has been small, and severe illness among kids is uncommon. That said, majority of the children who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications were not vaccinated against the disease.
No one wants to get COVID-19. The complications of the disease – which can include multisystem inflammatory syndrome – are far worse, and more common, than the reported side effects from the vaccine. And, with the holidays upon us, the risk of spreading the disease to more vulnerable members of the family remains high.
One thing that worries me as a pediatrician is the fact that the number of children developing COVID-19 seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. Last week, for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported a jump of 22% in the number of cases in just two weeks. For the 14th week in a row, childhood cases of COVID-19 are above 100,000.
Getting the vaccine protects children – and the adults in their lives – from hospitalizations, complications, and death.
If you have other questions about the vaccine, I recommend that you speak with your doctor or pediatrician, or check out Hoag’s FAQs here.
Dr. Kimberly Lank is a pediatrician at Hoag Medical Group in Huntington Beach.