Explainer: Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?

(Tiếng Việt)

On October 29, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 through 11 years old. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), John Hopkins Medicine, and many pediatricians and medical experts recommend that children 5 through 11 years old be vaccinated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The FDA studied approximately 3,100 children ages 5 through 11 who received the vaccine. No serious side effects have been detected. “Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy,” said the FDA’s Acting Commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock. “Our comprehensive and rigorous evaluation of the data pertaining to the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness should help assure parents and guardians that this vaccine meets our high standards.”

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine for children?

According to the FDA and CDC, the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children is administered in two-doses, spaced 3 weeks apart. Children 5 to 11 years old receive a lower dose of the vaccine than adults, because of their smaller body weight.

Similar to the results of adult vaccine trials, the “vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19” in 5 to 11-year-old children. In other words, vaccinating children can help protect them from getting COVID-19, prevent them from being seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19, and prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine for children?

Dr. Anna Christina Sick-Samuels and Dr. Allison Messina from the John Hopkins research hospital explain that the COVID vaccine side effects in children include pain or soreness at the injection site, fatigue, “headache, achy muscles or joints, and even fever and chills.” But they said that those “side effects are usually temporary and generally clear up within 48 hours.” 

Some safety concerns with the COVID-19 vaccine are the risks of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart). There have been reports of these cases among individuals ages 12 to 17 years old. However, these reports are very rare, and in almost all cases, the myocarditis and pericarditis “is mild and resolves quickly.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no deaths have been confirmed out of the 877 reports for vaccine-related myocarditis in those under 30. 

Dr. Matthew Oster, who is a pediatric cardiologist at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, asserts, “The bottom line is getting COVID, I think, is much riskier to the heart than getting this vaccine.”

Should your child be vaccinated?

Many other medical experts say yes. Dr. Sick-Samuels says that vaccination will prevent kids from being sick and missing school. “Getting vaccinated will also help keep children in school,” she said. “Children exposed to the coronavirus who are vaccinated are less likely to get infected, and so are more likely to be able to continue participating with less disruptions to school attendance and other activities.”

The CDC recommends that children be vaccinated as soon as possible. Dr. Woodcock stresses, “Data from the CDC showed that among children 5 to less than 12 years of age, there have been 1.9 million reported cases of COVID-19 … As of October 17, over 146 children have died [from COVID-19].” She urges that children be vaccinated to protect them against severe and long-lasting symptoms of Covid and against hospitalization.

Dr. Tina Tan, professor of pediatrics and infectious disease specialist at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, says that even though kids are less likely to get sick from COVID-19 than adults, it is still a possibility. Dr. Tan says there’s no way to predict which child will become sick from the virus: “Because the Delta variant is that much more transmissible, kids can get Delta and can get quite sick from it. You can’t predict – in a normal healthy child – who’s going to get very sick and who’s not. [Vaccination] is the best way to protect your child against getting severe COVID illness.”

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Viet Fact Check has partnered with a number of community and health organizations to educate the Vietnamese-American community on the COVID-19 vaccine. The project is supported by: Progressive Vietnamese American Organization (PIVOT), Asian Health Services (AHS), the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, Union of North American Vietnamese American Students (UNAVSA), Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Asian American Research Center on Health (ARCH) and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO).

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