The FDA plans to meet soon to discuss the next age group eligible, children ages 5-11, for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, and pediatricians are preparing to administer the injections once the vaccine is approved.
Doctors at Advocate Children’s Hospital have spoken to families and parents and listened to their questions and concerns.
Misinformation about the vaccine is a major concern for Attorneys at Law attorneys, who have compiled a list of the top myths they hear.
COVID vaccine and children: breaking the myth
Myth: Vaccines were rushed and may not be safe for children.
• The vaccines are safe for children; Clinical trial data showed that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine is safe and effective for children 12 years and older. As the approval process accelerated, vaccines for coronaviruses have been studied for decades. This vaccine is a product of those studies. The Pfizer vaccine was studied in more than 2,200 children, ages 12 to 15. The side effects reported were similar to those in adults (injection site pain, fatigue and body aches). Research has shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children aged 12 to 15 years. The vaccine is 91% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 disease in people aged 16 years and older.
Myth: Young people don’t need to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Kids don’t get COVID-19, and when they do, it’s mild.
• Children can and do get COVID-19, although their cases are usually less severe than those in adults. The Delta variant is now the most dominant variant among children and is highly contagious; millions of children have been diagnosed. More children with severe COVID-19 infection are being hospitalized than before during the pandemic.
• The vaccine protects eligible children from getting sick, and it can also help protect others. When young people get COVID-19, there is a high risk that they could pass it on to others who are at risk for more severe COVID-19.
• In addition, a COVID-19-related condition, the pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, is life-threatening and we have seen multiple cases here in Chicago and thousands across the country; children died from it. We still don’t know the long-term effects of COVID-19 – if they get COVID-19, it could negatively impact their future health.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine will affect fertility.
• Professional medical organizations that help people of childbearing age, including adolescents, emphasize that there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes a loss of fertility. These organizations also recommend COVID-19 vaccination for people who may want to become pregnant in the future.
• Many people have become pregnant after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, including some who were vaccinated during clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, a recent report using the data from the v-safe safety monitoring system showed that 4,800 people had a positive pregnancy test after receiving a first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (i.e. Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). Another report with data from 8 US health systems documented more than 1,000 people who completed COVID-19 vaccination (with a COVID-19 vaccine) before becoming pregnant.
• There is currently no evidence that antibodies made after vaccination against COVID-19 or that vaccine ingredients would cause problems with getting pregnant now or in the future. In a recent study of in vitro fertilization (a type of fertility treatment), researchers compared the chances of pregnancy in three groups of women. Women with:
o Antibodies by vaccination against COVID-19
o Antibodies from a recent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19
o No antibodies from a recent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or from a vaccination against COVID-19.
The study found no differences in the pregnancy success rate between the three
Myth: My child already had COVID-19, so they don’t need to get the vaccine.
• Everyone who is eligible must be vaccinated, regardless of age or COVID-19. Experts do not yet know how long someone is protected against getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. It is also possible – although rare – that someone could become infected with COVID-19 again, even after recovery. Talk to your doctor or pediatrician if you’re not sure how long you or your child should wait to get vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19.
Myth: My child cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccine before or after getting another vaccine.
• Our pediatricians encourage parents to consider giving their child the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines during the same visit. There is no need to wait a period between vaccinations. Data has shown that the side effects of vaccines — as well as the way our bodies develop antibodies to each vaccine — are generally the same when administered alone or simultaneously.
Myth: My child could have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine.
• Among the millions of people, including children, who received the vaccine, allergic reactions were incredibly low. Those who administer vaccines will let you stay 15 minutes after the injection to make sure your child is okay.
• Reactions after vaccination include arm pain, low fever, fatigue and muscle aches — nothing that lasts more than a day or two.
Myth: Current COVID-19 vaccines do not protect against the COVID-19 variants.
• In the US, the Delta variant is now the most common COVID-19 variant. It is almost twice as contagious as previous variants and can cause more serious illness. While research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are slightly less effective against the variants, the vaccines still appear to provide protection against severe COVID-19 (Source: Mayo Clinic).
l. Early research from the UK suggests that, after full vaccination, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 88% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 virus. The vaccine is also 96% effective in preventing severe illness with the COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant.
ii. Early research from Canada suggests that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is 72% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant after a single dose. One dose of the vaccine is also 96% effective in preventing severe illness with the COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant.
iii. The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is 85% effective in preventing severe illness with the COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant, according to data released by Johnson & Johnson.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines will change my child’s DNA.
• The way the vaccine is made does not target adult or pediatric DNA, so it cannot affect or alter a person’s DNA.
• Essentially, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response in our bodies. This allows our immune system to recognize the virus that causes COVID-19 more quickly, mount an immune response and tackle the virus more quickly. This vaccine development mechanism has been studied since 2011 and is both safe and effective.
• The first COVID-19 vaccines to hit the market were messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines work by instructing cells in the body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. Injecting mRNA into your body will not interact with or do anything to the DNA of your cells. Human cells break down and lose the mRNA shortly after they finish using the instructions.
Myth: My child will get COVID-19 by getting the vaccine.
• There is no active virus in the vaccine, which makes it impossible for your child to contract the disease from the injection.
• The COVID-19 vaccine will protect, not infect, your child.
• Side effects of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination are similar to those of most other vaccinations – arm pain at the vaccination site is common. Some people also experience fever, headache, and fatigue.
Myth: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine could help my child stop wearing my mask and take precautions against the coronavirus.
• The CDC continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and makes recommendations for wearing face masks, both for those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not fully vaccinated.
Additional Resources: CDC, AAP, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins.