Kids and the COVID-19 Vaccine

All people in the U.S. over the age of 16 are eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. And now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter thought this would be a good time to bring you up to date on what we know about kids and the COVID-19 vaccines.

In clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was shown to be safe and 100 percent effective for children in that age range. The vaccine was tested on more than 2,200 young people in the 12- to 15-year-old age group. Half received the vaccine, while half got a placebo. In the placebo group, 18 youngsters got COVID-19, while none of those vaccinated became infected.  Side effects were largely the same as those in adults: a sore arm, fatigue, and headache.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) hailed the government’s approval and urged all parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Research has shown the new vaccines to be remarkably effective,” AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said in a statement. “The vaccine is a powerful tool that—in conjunction with other safety measures like face masks, good hygiene, and physical distancing—can help us end the suffering and death caused by COVID-19.”

Why kids need the vaccine

Throughout the course of the pandemic, a myth has arisen that children can’t get COVID-19. Not only can they become infected, but over 3.7 million children have done so. Of those, approximately 250 have died. Earlier this month, the AAP reported that children now make up 22.4 percent of all new weekly cases.

In addition, studies suggest they can pass it on to adults, even if they aren’t showing symptoms. And even asymptomatic children or those with very mild symptoms can encounter the same type of “long haul” COVID-19 effects experienced by at least a third of adult survivors: memory impairment, lingering fatigue, heart and lung impacts, anxiety and depression, and more.

When they can get it

Although the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received FDA approval for that age group, it may take a few weeks for all the vaccine sites to have enough supply for 12- to 15-year-olds. Earlier this month, President Biden said that vaccines would be given directly to pediatricians so that parents can discuss any questions with their family doctors and that kids can get shots from people they are comfortable and familiar with.

It will also be made available to pharmacies and other community centers. In those cases, the Miami Herald reports, proof of age will be required. This could be a state-issued ID, a birth certificate, or a current passport. “Some sites may also allow the parent or legal guardian to confirm the child’s age if they don’t have the necessary documents readily available,” the paper reports.

Children under 18 will also need to have their parent or legal guardian with them at the time of vaccination to sign a consent form. Biden said that, for children who may be on vacation with their parents, they will be allowed to receive the two doses at two different sites, NBC News reported.

Where they can get it

According to the Florida Department of Health, more than 800 retail pharmacies in the state are scheduling vaccine appointments for eligible individuals. These include:

  • CVS pharmacy locations
  • Walgreens
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Walmart
  • Sam’s Club

In addition, all Publix Pharmacy locations have dropped the requirement to make an appointment and now offer walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations.

Can they get a different one?

Neither the Moderna nor the Johnson & Johnson vaccines are as close to approval for younger teens as the Pfizer vaccine. Both are still undergoing safety and efficacy trials, and are not expected to be approved for use in younger people until later this year.

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are being tested in children as young as six months. Moderna expects to ask the FDA for emergency use authorization (EUA) in that age group later this year. Pfizer also plans to request approval later this year for use of its vaccine in kids ages two to 11.

What about dosing?

The dosing for the younger age group will be the same as for adults, and experts say this is normal.

“While children are not small adults—they are different, so that is why it is so important for us to do very targeted safety trials in the younger age groups—our body physiology does fundamentally work the same way,” pediatrician Christina Johns told Business Insider. “I do not anticipate any major difference.”

Both Pfizer and Moderna are conducting dosing trials for infants and younger children.

Like their parents, younger teens can expect to have some mild to moderate side effects as their immune systems adjust to the vaccine’s protective response.

“It wouldn’t be unexpected that the children who already have good immune response might have a mild set of reactions after the second dose,” Donna Hallas, director of the pediatric nurse practitioner program at New York University College of Nursing, told Insider. “Plan for that day—have the kid take extra fluids and rest.”

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