By Adrienne Collier, MD, pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente

Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, many parents are excited to experience the sense of relief and security that comes with knowing their kids are protected. As a mother of four, I felt relieved when the vaccine received approval for adolescents and children. I am happy to report now that all of my children are fully vaccinated. 

I know that some hesitant parents are opting to “wait and see.” Unfortunately, this approach carries great risk for children and their families. COVID is not over. With contagious variants spreading and holiday gatherings just around the corner, getting our children vaccinated now is the best way to protect children and families from getting sick, spreading the virus and suffering long-term health consequences from COVID-19.

As a pediatrician and a parent, I understand that families have questions about a new vaccination for their child. I remind my patients that I’m here to answer those questions with accurate, up-to-date information, so that everyone can confidently make the best choice to protect their children. Here’s what I’m sharing with my patients’ parents in response to some of their most common questions.

Is the COVID vaccine safe for my child? Yes, in-fact data submitted to the FDA shows that the COVID-19 vaccine is 91% effective in children ages 5-11, while side effects, if any at all, were mostly mild and short-lived. Symptoms like mild fever, body aches, or headaches can be relieved with at-home remedies and usually subside after one to two days.

How can I make my child comfortable after their vaccine? You can treat mild symptoms, if your child has any, with at-home remedies such as keeping them hydrated; moving the arm; using a cold or warm compress at the injection site; avoiding strenuous activities and using over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 

What about myocarditis or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C)? Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, is an extremely rare side-effect of the COVID-19 vaccination, mostly observed in young adults, which usually resolves on its own. There were no cases of pericarditis or myocarditis observed in 5-11-year-olds in the clinical trial. MIS-C is a dangerous condition that can develop in children due to COVID-19 infection

I hope that by sharing this information, I can help families avoid the negative consequences of a child getting COVID-19. In the past six weeks, children have accounted for 1.1 million COVID-19 cases. While the long-term effects of COVD-19 in children are still being studied, many children experience ongoing symptoms like fatigue for weeks after recovering from a COVID-19 infection. Additionally, a COVID-19 diagnosis doesn’t just compromise the child – it affects the entire family. I’ve seen entire households quarantined for more than 20 days because one child became infected, with kids missing school and parents missing work. While children may recover more quickly, they can pass the virus to vulnerable family members such as a grandparent or infant sibling.

Like wearing a seatbelt to reduce the likelihood of getting severely injured in a car crash, we get vaccinated to reduce the possibility of becoming severely sick or even dying from COVID-19. Remember that kids have thrived throughout their young lives in large part thanks to all the vaccinations they have received along the way, like immunizations against measles, chickenpox or the flu. 

I hope that parents will breathe a sigh of relief once their 5 -to 11-year-olds get vaccinated in the coming weeks. These parents will also play a crucial role in helping all of us move beyond COVID-19 by supporting their children through the process. Through vaccination, we are closer to ending this pandemic. 

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