Protect your kids and your peace of mind this winter with COVID vaccinations
With the approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds, parents across the nation are now getting their children vaccinated against the virus. Questions still persist about the vaccine, its safety and its necessity, so we turned to the experts at LMH Health for accurate, up-to-date information.
Jennifer Clair, MD a physician at Total Family Care, recognizes that the decision to vaccinate children
Jennifer Clair, MD
against COVID-19 can be difficult. The vaccine doesn’t provide a foolproof guarantee that your child won’t contract COVID, but the benefits of the vaccination are considerable.
“We know that in general, kids who get COVID don’t get as sick but there are some that do. Some are hospitalized, put on ventilators, and sadly, some die. Kids who are vaccinated against COVID are more likely to have milder disease,” she said. “Remember that you’re weighing the risk of getting a vaccine to the risk of illness, not to the risk of just not getting one. The disease itself causes worse outcomes than the vaccine.”
Mild side effects from the vaccine that might be expected include soreness at the injection site, low-grade fever, body aches, chills or a lack of energy within a day or so after the vaccine. A small number of children may have a more serious allergic reaction, often within 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine.
“The risk of a serious complication from a COVID infection is much greater than the risk of an adverse side effect from the vaccine,” said Jennifer Bihlmaier, DO, a physician at Mount Oread Family Practice. “COVID infection in children can cause complications from the virus itself such as multi-system inflammatory syndrome. Some children may require ICU stays or have long-lasting health ramifications from the virus.”
Is the COVID vaccine safe?
Parents with questions about the safety of the pediatric COVID vaccine can rest easy. The vaccine was
Jennifer Bihlmaier, DO
tested and vetted before receiving approval from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Dr. Clair shared that researchers exercised caution and followed best practices for the study.
“Some of the things I’ve heard people say have been things like the numbers studied were too low and that’s not true. The numbers in this study were in line with the number of children in others,” she said.
Though the Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID vaccine approved for children, both it and the Moderna vaccine are Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. These vaccines use mRNA created in a laboratory to teach the body’s cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. That response, which produces antibodies, protects the body from infection if the COVID virus enters. Live virus is not present in the vaccine, so rest easy knowing that your child won’t be injected with it.
“The mRNA that’s injected is just like any other substance that would be injected. The body breaks it down and it’s cleared in less than two weeks. It doesn’t enter the nucleus of the DNA, so it’s not altered in any way. Very plainly, it stimulates the body to produce the protein the immune system recognizes as foreign. That gives our cells the ability to remember the protein and react to an infection more quickly,” explained Dr. Clair.
Benefits of COVID vaccination
While protecting your child from COVID infection is the primary goal when receiving the vaccine, there are other benefits to vaccination.
- Vaccinated children are less likely to spread the virus, in turn helping to protect your family members, especially younger children who aren’t eligible to receive the vaccine and others who are at higher risk.
- Vaccinated children are less likely to become seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19.
- Vaccinating children helps to keep them in school and safely participate in sports, visit their friends and participate in other activities.
“As the number of vaccinated children increases, it’s more likely that mask-wearing restrictions in schools could be lifted and kids will get back to more normal activities they need and have been missing,” Dr. Clair said.
Dr. Bihlmaier agreed that getting your kids vaccinated will help us continue on the road back to “normal.”
“I have a five and a seven-year-old and I’m eager to get them both vaccinated as soon as possible! Vaccinating your children will help to restore that more normal life for them,” she said. “We owe it to our children to make informed decisions to protect their health and the health of other children in the community.”
Routine vaccinations remain vital
It's important to remember that the COVID vaccine isn't the only one your child should receive. Routine vaccinations for children help prevent illnesses such as measles, whooping cough, tetanus and chicken pox.
Your child can receive these vaccinations during regular well-child visits with their primary care provider. These visits provide you with the opportunity to discuss concerns about your child's health and wellbeing, as well as:
- Physical exam, including basic height and weight measurements
- Review of developmental milestones in younger children
- Mental health assessment for older children
"Childhood vaccinations not only help protect your child but also help to keep other children safe by addressing dangerous diseases that could potentially spread in the community," said Dr. Bihlmaier. "All childhood vaccinations to date have shown to be safe. The risk of not being vaccinated outweighs the risk of any potential serious reaction."
LMH Health has nine family care clinics across Lawrence, Douglas and Leavenworth Counties to care for your child. Click here to find a physician to keep your child healthy and well.