In late 2020 and early 2021, more than 7,000 parents in the U.S. decided to allow their children to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, some of their children were fully vaccinated long before many American adults even became eligible for vaccination.
While a COVID-19 vaccine had yet to be approved for children under the age of 16 at that time, thousands of children who participated in U.S. trials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine received both doses of the shot. Other participants received a placebo.
Now, after a thorough review of the trial data by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pfizer has received emergency use authorization of the vaccine for kids age 5 and older. This leaves all other parents having to decide whether they will allow their children to be vaccinated.
“We know only a small percentage of children have become seriously ill or died due to COVID-19 complications, but it is not unheard of, and we can’t be certain how potential new variants of the coronavirus might affect children moving forward,” says Dr. Abisola Olulade, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “The authorization to proceed with vaccinating children will help provide them with protection against possible illness and also help to protect those around them.”
While experts agree with Dr. Olulade, some parents may still have questions about the safety and effectiveness of — or even the need for — the vaccine for their children. Here, Dr. Olulade offers 5 reasons why parents should consider allowing their child to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
1. The vaccine is safe and effective. Upon submitting a request to the FDA for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine in children age 5 and older, Pfizer reported that the vaccine demonstrated “100% efficacy and robust antibody responses.” Additionally, trial participants who received the vaccine reported no or only mild side effects after vaccination — much like the experience of older teens and young adults who were vaccinated.
2. COVID-19 cases in children have risen. While more adults may already be vaccinated, accounting for decreased numbers of cases in that population, some states are seeing small surges of cases in kids related to a return to school, youth sports and extracurricular activities. Experts are concerned that this number could continue to rise as virus variants spread.
3. Vaccination of kids helps the U.S. reach herd immunity. Experts have recently expressed concern that the U.S. may not achieve herd immunity. However, vaccinating a large percentage of children age 5 and older could help us get closer to that goal. Even though children are rarely severely affected by COVID-19 — though some do experience serious illness — they can spread the virus to other people. Kids often spend time with adults — loved ones, teachers, coaches, employees of the businesses they frequent — and by getting children vaccinated, parents are helping to protect those individuals as well.
4. Some activities may require full vaccination. As states across the country begin to reduce restrictions and allow gatherings, performances, spectator sports and travel, some venues are adding full vaccination as a condition to enjoy them. In California, live audience events, conferences, sports and entertainment currently require either a very recent negative COVID-19 test or proof of full vaccination to attend and sit in certain areas of the venue without some COVID-19 restrictions, such as social distancing. Families dreaming of a trip to the European Union or other destinations may also find they need everyone in their group to be fully vaccinated before they embark on their adventure.
5. Kids are ready to get "back to normal." Parents who are fully vaccinated — meaning 2 weeks or more have passed since they received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — have stated that they look forward to their children having the same sense of safety and renewed freedom that they are now enjoying. With more restrictions lifted, many kids are excited to be in school, play sports, hang out with friends, take trips, and spend time with grandparents and other relatives. Vaccination of everyone involved makes it safer and generally more worry-free.
“Parents who have questions or concerns about their child receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should talk with their family doctor or pediatrician,” Dr. Olulade says. “I have confidence that the more people learn about the vaccine’s impressive safety and efficacy, consider how vaccination will allow them to get back to some of the pre-pandemic activities their family enjoyed, and understand how vaccination of one can help provide protection of others, they will come to believe in the importance of having their children vaccinated.”
Get COVID-19 vaccine information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp HealthCare.
This article was updated in December 2021.