On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accepted the recommendation of an independent federal advisory committee to allow children ages 12 to 15 to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination sites across the country have already begun to schedule vaccination appointments for this age group and administer the first dose of the double-dose vaccine.
“The approval of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents is a step in the right direction,” says Dr. Abisola Olulade, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “We have been diligently working to slow the spread of COVID-19 over the past 14 months, and the vaccination of this age group will certainly aid these efforts and help bring the pandemic to a close.”
While many parents have anxiously awaited news of the vaccine becoming available for their young teens, some may have questions and concerns about vaccination. Here, Dr. Olulade joins national experts in answering the top questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids.
1. Why should my child be vaccinated?
While only a small percentage of children have become seriously ill or died due to COVID-19 complications, it is not unheard of, and we can’t be certain how having COVID-19 or potential new variants of the coronavirus might affect children in the future. What’s more, children can spread the virus to others. Vaccinating a large percentage of children ages 12 to 15 will help us get closer to reaching herd immunity and protect those at high risk of serious illness.
2. Which vaccine will my child receive?
Children ages 12 and older will receive the Pfizer vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to include this age group. The COVID-19 vaccines created by drugmakers Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have not yet been approved for people under age 18.
3. Is the vaccine safe?
Yes, the vaccine is safe — and effective. The CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and Pfizer report that the vaccine is extremely safe for individuals ages 12 and above. More than 153 million people have already received at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and serious side effects are extremely rare. Additionally, the vaccine demonstrated “100% efficacy and robust antibody responses” during the U.S. Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial. Of the 2,260 adolescents who participated in the trial, no or only mild side effects after vaccination were reported.
4. Is the dose for kids ages 12 to 15 the same dose given to adults?
Yes, children ages 12 to 15 will receive the same dose of the Pfizer vaccine that individuals age 16 and up receive. According to the FDA, the vaccine’s 2 doses, administered 3 weeks apart, offer known and potential benefits in people age 12 and older, and these benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of contracting COVID-19.
5. Can the vaccine affect fertility or my teens’ menstrual cycles?
There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that unfounded claims linking COVID-19 vaccines to infertility have been scientifically disproven and recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible people who may consider future pregnancy. While some vaccinated adults have reported changes in their period after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, the information is only anecdotal and the changes have not been directly linked to vaccination.
6. Where can I get my child vaccinated?
Your child’s pediatrician or family doctor’s office should be contacting you soon with information on how to make a vaccination appointment or where walk-in vaccinations might be available. You can also schedule an appointment at a County of San Diego vaccination site or through your local pharmacy. Some San Diego schools are also hosting vaccine sites in partnership with Sharp and will notify families about the free vaccinations and provide the required parent consent form.
7. When can younger children be vaccinated?
Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccine makers began vaccine trials in younger children that will eventually include babies as young as 6 months old. Some results from those trials are expected by the end of summer, and Pfizer states it hopes to receive authorization for vaccination of younger children by early 2022.
“It’s understandable to have questions about vaccination and I encourage parents to talk with their child’s doctor,” Dr. Olulade says. “However, we know families have been dreaming of returning to the summer activities they’ve enjoyed in the past and strongly believe vaccination of kids ages 12 to 15 will help make this return to some sense of normalcy possible, as well as safe.”