Kids and the Covid-19 Vaccine: Is it Safe and When Can They Get It?
By Robbie Whelan
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Covid-19
vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for use in children 12 to
15 years. The shot is the first cleared for administration in the
younger age group, after the FDA last December approved the vaccine
for ages 16 and up. Here is everything you need to know about
Covid-19 vaccines and children:
When will children get the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine?
It could be within a few days, depending on how quickly states
make 12- to 15-year-olds eligible. States often wait for a go-ahead
from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That
could come quickly. A committee advising the CDC on vaccines is
tentatively scheduled to meet on Wednesday to decide whether to
recommend expanding use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to
adolescents. Another key factor is whether a state has enough
vaccine doses available to expand access. Supplies have increased
considerably since Covid-19 vaccines began rolling out. "I would be
surprised if it were more than a week or two before kids start
getting shots, and in theory, once the emergency use authorization
is given, kids could get vaccinated the very next day," said
pediatrician Robert Frenck, director of the Center For Vaccine
Research at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, which helped test the
Pfizer-BioNTech shot in adolescents. However, vaccinating children
younger than 12 years is months away. Pfizer, which is testing its
shot in the younger children, said it expects to have data and
request authorization in September.
Do we need to vaccinate children?
Yes, according to most infectious-disease experts. Children can
and do get sick from Covid-19, though research shows they typically
experience milder cases and are much less likely than adults and
the elderly to be hospitalized or die from the virus. As of late
March, more than 3.4 million children had been infected with
Covid-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics,
including nearly 14,000 hospitalizations and 279 deaths. The
emergence of more-contagious variants, including the B.1.1.7
variant that was first identified in the U.K. and is now dominant
in the U.S., appears to be sending younger patients to the hospital
with a higher frequency, making vaccines in young adults and
adolescents all the more urgent, some doctors and scientists say.
In addition, scientists say children need to be vaccinated to
achieve the communitywide, or herd, immunity that renders spread of
the virus unlikely. "Vaccines give us the opportunity to really
turn the tide on this pandemic, and children and teens really need
to be a part of that strategy," said Lisa Costello, a pediatrician
and president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Academy
Will vaccination be required for school?
This is a tough one, with no simple answer. Local school
districts decide whether to require vaccinations, usually based on
advice from the CDC and state and local health officials. Most
school districts in the country already require students to have
received vaccinations for mumps, measles and rubella, as well as
polio, diphtheria and chickenpox, though many districts grant
exemptions to students with pre-existing health problems or
religious beliefs conflicting with the mandate. "If you're in a
district that has a lot of vaccine requirements already, I wouldn't
be surprised to see the Covid-19 vaccine just lumped in with those
others," said Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate director of advocacy
and governance for AASA, the School Superintendents Association, a
national umbrella group that represents school districts. Some
districts might require Covid-19 vaccinations just for a year or
two, until the pandemic dies down, some other school experts say.
More than 100 U.S. colleges and universities have said they would
require students to be vaccinated.
What are children's' Covid-19 symptoms?
The symptoms are pretty much the same for children as they are
for adults, according to the CDC. The symptoms include fever or
chills, cough, loss of sense of taste or smell, and headaches.
Doctors have also been probing links between Covid-19 and a rare
inflammatory condition that causes stomach pain, skin rashes and a
high fever. One reason why doctors and public-health experts say
they hope children will get vaccinated is research indicating they
can carry and transmit the virus even if they don't show any
Does the vaccine pose any risks to children?
Any vaccine comes with the risk of an adverse reaction, and the
Covid-19 shots are no different, doctors and vaccine experts say.
So far, however, researchers haven't found evidence the vaccines
pose any additional or different risks to children versus adults.
The most common side effects to the vaccine, according to the CDC,
are flulike symptoms such as fever, muscle aches and chills. Many
recipients also experience arm soreness or bruising after receiving
the shot. In extremely rare cases, people who have received a
Covid-19 vaccine have experienced severe allergic reactions,
including anaphylaxis related to chemicals that help package the
main ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, a
compound known as mRNA. Studies also indicate there aren't safety
risks for pregnant mothers or their unborn children from the
vaccines, and that expectant mothers can pass on immunity-boosting
antibodies to their fetuses after getting the shots. "Some parents
will be skittish about the [Pfizer] vaccine because it's a new
technology, but that just means there's a lot more educating to be
done on the topic," said Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and virology
expert at Baylor University. "The safety profile looks about the
same for kids as it does for adults."
Write to Robbie Whelan at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 10, 2021 17:46 ET (21:46 GMT)
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