It’s good news that the FDA and CDC have approved a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The availability of the vaccine for this age group – along with the vaccines approved for adults and children ages 12 and up – provide another layer of protection as kids resume their normal activities, including staying in school without the disruption of quarantine due to potential exposure.
Some parents may be hesitant about the news, fearing the vaccine was rushed, but they should note that the research behind these vaccines has been around for years. And recent data show the vaccines are safe and 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection in kids ages 5-11 years. Of the 3000 children in the study, none reported moderate or severe side effects. None had myocarditis or anaphylaxis. Most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, mild headache, and fatigue.
Many children experience mild illness and recover completely from COVID-19, but others can experience severe symptoms and require hospitalization. Although rare, MISC (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children) has been linked to COVID-19 infection in 4000 children and caused 40 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Ongoing isolation and the burden of watching their loved ones fall ill have been difficult for many children. It is estimated that 140,000 children in the US have lost a caregiver due to COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, emergency department visits for mental health crises in children have increased 24% in kids ages 5-11 and 31% in kids ages 12-17. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 10-24 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospitals Association have declared this a crisis in children’s health and have proposed ways to help.
Children need to be able to participate in the normal activities of childhood. While schools and families have adjusted to the “new normal,” we want to see them return to their real normal. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine would allow many children to avoid quarantine after COVID-19 exposure and continue to participate in school and extracurricular activities.
These are among many reasons CHI Saint Joseph Health along with the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends all children who are eligible receive the vaccine. The more people in our communities who are vaccinated, the less opportunity there is for the virus to spread and mutate. This not only will help protect those who are vulnerable but unable to be vaccinated, but also will help us to end the pandemic.
We urge parents to consider the benefits of the vaccines and to talk to their health care providers about this important decision for their child’s health. We also recommend that parents get vaccinated, if they haven’t already, to protect their children and help us to end this pandemic.