About 28 million children became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved and created guidelines for children ages 5 to 11 to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. But as the vaccine rollout begins for younger kids, many parents may have questions.
Health Matters spoke to Dr. Karen Acker, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist and hospital epidemiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Dr. Melissa Stockwell, chief of the division of child and adolescent health at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, to share what parents should know about the vaccine for children in this age group — its safety, side effects, and how effective it is at protecting kids from COVID-19.
Why is it important for young kids to get vaccinated?
Since the pandemic began, about 2 million children ages 5 to 11 have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, and 8,300 have been hospitalized, a third of whom have needed intensive care. While the number of children who have died of COVID-19 in the past year is fortunately small, COVID-19 is still among the top 10 causes of death in this age group. This is something we can help prevent by getting children vaccinated.
We know that children have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they were infected with the virus or not. We have also seen that children who live in areas with low vaccination rates are much more likely to get infected and be hospitalized with COVID-19. When younger children are vaccinated, parents can be assured that their kids can go to school safely, play with other children their age, and stay safe while resuming their normal lives. The sooner we and our children can get vaccinated, the sooner we can feel reassured that we have done our best to keep our children protected from COVID-19.