Children of all ages are susceptible to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and its complications. Learn about the symptoms of COVID-19 in children and how you can protect your child.
How likely is it that a child will get coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
Children account for roughly 19% of all COVID-19 cases reported in the United States since the pandemic began.While children are just as likely as adults to contract COVID-19, they are less likely to become seriously ill. COVID-19 may be present in up to 50% of children and adolescents with no symptoms. However, some children with COVID-19 require hospitalisation, intensive care unit treatment, or placement on a ventilator to help them breathe.
Certain medical conditions may increase a child’s risk of serious illness with COVID-19, including:
- Congenital heart disease
- Genetic conditions
- Conditions affecting the nervous system or metabolism
How are babies affected by COVID-19?
Babies under the age of one may be at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than older children. COVID-19 can be transmitted to newborns during childbirth or through contact with sick caregivers after birth. When caring for your newborn, wear a well-fitting face mask and keep your hands clean if you have COVID-19 or are waiting for test results due to symptoms during your hospital stay after childbirth. It’s fine to keep your newborn’s crib next to your bed while you’re in the hospital, but keep a reasonable distance from your baby when possible. When these precautions are taken, the risk of a newborn contracting COVID-19 is reduced. However, if you are seriously ill with COVID-19, you may need to be separated from your newborn for a while.
Depending on the circumstances, infants with COVID-19 but no symptoms may be discharged from the hospital. To protect themselves, the baby’s caregivers should wear face masks and wash their hands. For 14 days, the baby’s health care provider must be contacted frequently (via phone, virtual visits, or in-office visits). Infants who do not test positive for COVID-19 can be discharged from the hospital.
Is it possible to immunise babies and children against COVID-19?
Yes. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently approved by the FDA for those aged 16 and up, as well as for emergency use in those aged 6 months and up. Moderna (Spikevax) vaccine has full FDA approval for people aged 18 and up, as well as emergency use for those aged 6 months and up.
How long should my child wait between COVID-19 vaccine doses?
According to the CDC, infants and toddlers can receive any vaccine that is available (Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech). Dosing timetables for children aged 6 months to 4 years will differ depending on the type of medication your child is given.
The dosing schedule for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for children is as follows:
Vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech: Young children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years should be given a second dose three weeks after the first, tried to follow by a third dose at least eight weeks later. Children aged 5 and up should receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the second time three weeks after their first dose, followed by a booster five months later.
Children aged 6 to 17 years old should be given a second dose four weeks after the first.
Can my child get the COVID-19 shot at the same time as another vaccine?
According to the CDC, it is perfectly safe for your child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as another routine vaccine (or shortly before or after), including the flu shot. According to experts, there is no increased risk of side effects from receiving the COVID vaccine alongside another vaccine.
Should children who have already had COVID-19 receive the vaccine?
The CDC emphasizes that everyone who is eligible for the vaccine should get it, even if they have previously had COVID-19. Adults (including pregnant women) and children aged 6 months and older are currently included.
After infection, the body does gain some protection against COVID-19. However, experts are unsure how long that protection will last. Receiving the vaccine usually results in a more consistent antibody response, the CDC says.
Does my child need a COVID-19 booster shot?
Currently, anyone aged 5 and up can receive one booster shot after receiving their primary COVID-19 vaccine series. Certain groups may also be eligible for a second booster shot.
A booster shot improves or restores the protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, the CDC recently recommended a booster shot for children aged 5 to 11 who finished their primary vaccine series more than five months ago.
In a small study, Pfizer and BioNTech discovered that a booster shot increased antibody levels against the Omicron variant 36 times more than two doses of the vaccines.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has obtained booster shots that specifically target BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub variants, which account for more than 90% of all infections.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for infants and young children?
Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine, like all vaccines, has undergone extensive research and approval to ensure its safety for both adults and children. Indeed, the CDC claims that the COVID-19 vaccines have undergone “the most intense safety monitoring in US history.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated on June 18 that it “supports [the CDC’s] recommendation and encourages paediatricians to promote vaccination and give COVID-19 vaccines.”
Clinical trial data show that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is both safe and effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in children under the age of five (as well as 5- to 15-year-olds). Clinical trials examining the Moderna vaccine’s safety and efficacy in children have also yielded positive results.
“The AAP has pushed for rigorous studies in children to ensure that the vaccine is safe, effective, and at the appropriate dose,” says Jen Trachtenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of paediatrics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and AAP spokesperson.
There’s also no need to be concerned about the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines altering your child’s DNA. The CDC claims that mRNA is unable to enter the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA resides, and that it is broken down by the body shortly after a person is vaccinated.
Why weren’t children included in the first COVID-19 clinical trials?
According to Sean O’Leary, M.D., M.P.H., vice chair of the AAP Committee for Infectious Diseases and professor of paediatric infectious diseases at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus/Hospital Children’s Colorado, children’s immune systems differ from those of adults, and their immune responses can vary depending on their age.
While a teenager may react similarly to an adult to a vaccine, an elementary school-age child, toddler, or infant may have a different reaction. That is why it is critical to conduct clinical trials in children separately.
Children’s trials are divided into two stages. According to Rajeev Fernando, M.D., an infectious disease expert and member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board, the first stage examines different dose levels. As a next step, those doses are then tested against placebo injections.
Around 74 million people in the United States are under the age of 18, and experts say getting children vaccinated is critical to preventing severe illness and hospitalisation.
Is it possible that the COVID-19 vaccine causes myocarditis in children?
There were no indications of myocarditis — an inflammatory condition of the heart muscle — from either vaccine in the clinical trials for children aged 5 to 11 or for children under the age of 5. After receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, a very small number of adolescents and young adults developed mild cases of myocarditis. According to the AAP, becoming infected with COVID-19 is far more likely to cause myocarditis than receiving the vaccine.
Myocarditis can develop when the body’s immune system responds to an infection or another factor.Abnormal heart rhythms (feelings of a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Myocarditis and pericarditis — inflammation of the heart’s outer lining — have occurred most frequently in males after the second dose and within a week of inoculation. With rest, most patients recovered quickly.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine infect my child?
No. The COVID-19 vaccine functions similarly to other routine immunizations given to children. According to the AAP, it contains molecules with a set of instructions that teach the immune system to make its own protective antibodies capable of fighting the germs that cause the virus.
The vaccines, however, do not contain the virus itself. “There is no way to get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Fernando says. If a child (or adult) becomes ill after receiving a vaccine, this does not indicate that they have COVID-19. Instead, they are experiencing normal side effects that can occur when the immune system goes into overdrive to launch a protective response against the virus, according to the CDC.
What are the potential side effects of COVID-19 vaccination for a baby or young child?
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots have been shown to have mild, short-term side effects similar to those experienced by your infant, toddler, or young child with other immunizations. Fever and soreness at the injection site were the most common symptoms; babies and toddlers under 3 years old may also be sleepy, irritable, or have a loss of appetite, while children 3 to 5 years old may have low energy, a headache, or flu-like symptoms.
These side effects can be annoying — cranky babies and toddlers aren’t fun. However, experts agree that COVID-19 protection is worth a day or two of discomfort.
“The problem with COVID is that we don’t know who will get really sick and who won’t,” Dr. Posner says. “I’d rather my child have mild side effects from a vaccine and hopefully get decent protection from severe illness than risk it.”
Are you curious about the effects of the shots on older children? According to the FDA, the most common side effects in adolescents and older children, like adults, are a sore arm, fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and muscle and joint pain, especially after the second dose. Side effects do not appear to be stronger or more common in children, and many have had no side effects at all.
As with other vaccines, a child or adult may develop an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 shot. These reactions are extremely uncommon, but when they do occur, they usually occur shortly after immunisation. As a result, everyone who receives the vaccine must wait 15 to 30 minutes before leaving the facility where they were given the shot. In the event of an allergic reaction,
What about long-term side effects? In general, side effects of other vaccines have been observed to occur within six weeks of immunisation, and the CDC anticipates that the COVID-19 vaccine will follow suit. If parents have any concerns after giving their children the vaccine, they should consult their paediatrician.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for infants and young children?
Yes. According to Pfizer, its vaccine was 80% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection in children aged 6 months to less than 5 years. In clinical trials, Moderna’s efficacy was 51% for children aged 6 months to under 2 years and 37% for children aged 2 to 5.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is also effective at preventing severe illness in kids as young as 5. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that kids ages 5 to 11 who had received two shots of the vaccine were 68 percent less likely to be hospitalized during the Omicron surge than their unvaccinated peers. Vaccinated adolescents aged 12 to 18 were also 40% less likely to be hospitalised with Omicron. In this age group, the risk of serious outcomes, such as needing mechanical breathing assistance or even death, was reduced by 80%.
Another CDC report found that during the Omicron wave this winter, COVID-19 hospitalisation rates in children aged 5 to 11 years were roughly twice as high in unvaccinated children as in vaccinated children.
Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May found that two doses of the Moderna vaccine elicited a strong immune response in children aged six to eleven.
Why is it so important for children to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
First and foremost, it will safeguard your child’s health. “The vaccine is the best way to avoid getting COVID-19,” Dr. Trachtenberg says. Vaccines also reduce the likelihood of serious illness and/or hospitalisation in children who do contract the virus, according to Dr. Posner.
It is true that children are less likely than adults to become seriously ill. Even if they do not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, they can still contract the virus and spread it to others.
Millions of children have been infected with the virus since the outbreak began. The CDC warns that in rare cases, children may develop severe complications that necessitate hospitalisation, intensive care, or the use of a ventilator.
Moreover, given the pandemic’s impact on their daily lives, vaccination provides more than just physical protection.
“We’ve seen the impact on children’s mental health,” Dr. Trachtenberg says. “We really want children and adolescents to be able to do their activities, socialise with friends indoors, and feel confident at school as much as possible.”
Vaccinating your child also protects others in the community who may be unable to receive immunisation, according to Dr. Fernando.
In a nutshell? “Vaccinations save lives,” says Dr. Fernando.
Parents can now vaccinate their children at paediatrician offices, pharmacies, federally qualified health centres, local health departments, clinics, and other locations across the country.
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