Big COVID-19 vaccine news: Children ages 12 and over are now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, following approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and authorization by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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While the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still only available to people ages 18 and over, the FDA has authorized the emergency use of all three vaccines, which have been determined to be safe and effective.
“Vaccination is one of the most important ways to slow the spread of the virus,” says pediatrician Michelle Medina, MD. “We encourage everyone, including children, to get vaccinated when they are eligible and the vaccine is available to them.”
She explains what vaccine eligibility means for this new age group, in particular.
Q: Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?
A: Yes. Following rigorous testing and analysis, all three vaccines approved by the FDA have been found to be both safe and effective. Before being made available to the public, the Pfizer vaccine was thoroughly tested specifically to determine its safety and effectiveness in children ages 12-15.
“Because children’s immune systems are different than adults and change as they age, vaccines are being tested and approved for different age groups,” Dr. Medina explains. “Medical trials involving children involve strict protocols to ensure their safety.”
Q: Why should my child receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: While it’s true that children have generally had milder cases of COVID-19 than adults, and most don’t have serious symptoms, some kids have become severely ill from acute COVID-19 or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C is associated with a surge of inflammation of the blood vessels, specifically with the heart and coronary arteries.
With this expanded eligibility, though — accounting for about 17 million children and teens — an estimated 87% of the total U.S. population is now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds will get us one step closer to getting the pandemic under control. “Remember, children can still transmit the virus,” Dr. Medina says, “so it’s vital that we protect them and those around them by getting them vaccinated.”
Q: Will my child experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: Maybe. Children are susceptible to the same side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine as adults, but they’re generally mild. They include:
- Soreness at the injection site.
- Body aches.
As in adults, serious side effects in children are rare.
Q: Will the COVID-19 vaccine impact my child’s future fertility?
A: No. Some parents have worried whether the COVID-19 vaccine might affect their children’s reproductive capabilities in adulthood, but doctors say this concern isn’t backed by science. “There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects a person’s fertility,” Dr. Medina reiterates.
In fact, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine encourages everyone, including pregnant people and those who hope to become pregnant in the future, to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Q: When will younger children be vaccinated?
A: While there’s no clear-cut timeline for the future, some drug companies are expanding their vaccine clinical trials to include younger children and babies as young as 6 months old.
“This is a crucial step in our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Medina says. “These pediatric vaccine trials will provide critical safety data and help us better understand the vaccine’s immune response in children.”