Kids and the COVID Vaccine: Answering Common Questions For Parents




 The average four-year-old child asks 437 questions a day -- and during the pandemic, it's likely a lot of those questions have centered around COVID-19. But as a parent, you may have a number of your own queries to contend with, especially when it comes to protecting your children.


As we prepare for the first rounds of the coronavirus vaccine to be distributed, you may be wondering whether this potentially life-saving immunization will be effective -- or even safe -- for your loved ones. You may also be curious about when it might become available to your family, how much it might cost, or how it will be given out. Since 48% of internet users perform more than two weeks of research before they even schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider, it makes sense that you'd want to be thorough to protect the health of your kids. Here's what we know so far about the coronavirus vaccine as it relates to children in the United States.


When Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Become Available For Children?

One of the main things parents want to know is when a vaccine will be ready for their kids. Experts are saying that it's unlikely that a vaccine will become available before the next school year begins in August or September. That might seem strange, since the two leading vaccines have just been approved for distribution. But those vaccines have been approved for adult use, meaning that they'll be available to those who are 16 or older.


Because vaccine doses and effects may differ in children, vaccine trials for younger folks are already underway. Pfizer has now expanded its vaccine testing to individuals over the age of 12, while Moderna plans to begin its trials for children aged 12 to 17 as soon as possible. But it's likely going to be a while before vaccine testing becomes available for children younger than 12. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine has to be analyzed for each group before it's cleared -- and because children respond differently to COVID-19 than adults do, there's not an official recommendation regarding age of vaccination. We'll have to wait until more information becomes available.


Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe For Children?

Since 20,000 medical malpractice claims are filed each year, parents want to ensure their children won't be harmed by the vaccine. As of right now, the approved vaccines for coronavirus are not available for children -- precisely because we don't know how children would be affected by them. There are no serious safety concerns with either vaccine, but the testing phase for children is just beginning.


Many parents may be concerned about temporary side effects, which makes sense because children tend to have stronger reactions to vaccines on a temporary basis. While children do have stronger immune systems, they're more likely to show symptoms like injection site irritation and fever following receipt of a vaccination. Although these symptoms actually show that the body is reacting the way it should, it can be a frightening situation for both parents and kids to be in. It's also possible that children (or adults) with a history of anaphylaxis may want to exercise caution -- but since those reactions haven't been seen in the U.S., it's unclear as to whether there will be any specific health warnings associated with the vaccine.


It's important to note that just because this vaccine has been developed quickly, that doesn't mean it's unsafe. Other vaccines might take five or 10 years to develop due to a number of factors, including funding limitations or the need to start from scratch. Neither of those factors apply to the vaccines currently being developed and distributed for COVID-19. So while it might seem like this vaccine has been fast-tracked, that's not a valid reason to distrust the process.


Is It Necessary For Children To Be Vaccinated At All?

Some parents wonder whether vaccinating adults will be enough, especially because both children and adults will require two shots as part of the vaccine. Experts say that ending the pandemic requires both adults and children to be vaccinated. If children are still able to become infected, they can then transmit the virus and essentially become a "reservoir" for the virus. That will make it that much harder for us to turn the corner, especially because there are people who physically cannot be vaccinated. Herd immunity relies on as many people as possible to be vaccinated. And since the efficacy rates for both of the leading vaccines are higher than expected, the end may be in sight -- but only if parents lead the way. The sooner children can be vaccinated, the sooner they can safely return to school and resume their normal routine.


Will My Children Be Forced To Become Vaccinated?

Some parents worry that state regulations would require vaccinations for their children, with many threatening to move elsewhere if this became a requirement. We don't yet know whether any state will require children to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to school, but most experts feel that chances are good that it might be added to the list of vaccinations that are already required by many districts and states. Currently, only five states do not allow religious or philosophical exceptions to vaccination rules. Many are hoping that, by the time the vaccine becomes approved and readily available for children, concern about its safety and efficacy will be quelled by evidentiary support like decreased infections. And if what parents really want is to ensure their children can return to school as normal, experts say, it's within their best interests to ensure they're vaccinated.


As yet, there's so much we don't know about the COVID-19 vaccine in regards to children. But as the adult vaccine becomes more widespread and testing continues for younger individuals, we'll learn a lot more about what we might see in the months to come.


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