The COVID-19 vaccine and your child

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available for those 12 years and older, you might be wondering if getting your child vaccinated is the right decision.

Ameera Nauman, MD, a pediatrician with OSF Medical Group, talks about why you should have your child vaccinated for COVID-19.

Do vaccines prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Evidence shows the vaccines are effective with minimum vaccine breakthrough, reducing the chances for the virus to circulate.

“Anyone, including children, can transmit a virus to others if they’re infected, even when they have no symptoms,” Dr. Nauman said. “Vaccines help break that cycle, protecting your children, family and friends.

“That protection branches out to the entire community. The more people protected against the virus reduces the chance for the virus to mutate and become more dangerous.”

Should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

“Yes. While COVID-19 doesn’t seem to affect children as bad as adults, sometimes, they can get very sick and have complications or long-lasting symptoms,” Dr. Nauman said. “And children can still face a risk of death, although rarer than with adults.”

The vaccines have been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms if vaccine breakthrough does occur. Unofficial reports also indicate that the vaccine can help those suffering from long-lasting symptoms.

Long-lasting COVID-19 symptoms may include:

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  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Dizziness on standing
  • Headache
  • Inflammation of the heart
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Tiredness or fatigue

In addition, if your child tested positive for COVID-19 within the last six months, they may need further evaluation that requires them to see their primary care provider. That exam should take place even if your child experienced mild or no symptoms from their COVID-19 infection. This is because the virus can still damage the heart.

“Inflammation of the heart is the main reason your child needs to be stabilized and examined closely before participating in sports,” Dr. Nauman said.

Will my child have side effects?

The vaccines have similar side effects for children and adults.

Side effects may include:

  • Achy muscles or joints
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Pain at the injection site (upper arm)

These side effects are usually temporary and generally clear up within 48 hours.

Recently, medical professionals and institutions like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have noted increased reports of myocarditis. This rare side effect causes inflammation of the heart muscle and the lining around the heart in adolescents and young adults after COVID-19 vaccination.

“Generally, this occurs within a week of the second vaccination and mostly in males above 16 years of age,” Dr. Nauman said. “The condition is treated in the hospital and resolves within a few days, with patients achieving complete recovery. Although this side effect is rare, it has naturally caused some parents to be concerned.”

It is important to note that many children get myocarditis from viruses, including the one this vaccine protects against. The known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks. Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC continue to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for individuals 12 years of age and older.

Am I required to have my child vaccinated?

There is no law requiring your child to be vaccinated. However, administrative bodies at independent institutes are free to establish their own guidelines.

“For instance, schools and organizations do require different vaccinations, such as those for diphtheria or whooping cough. Your child’s school might require COVID-19 vaccination for in-person learning,” Dr. Nauman said. “Different colleges have already taken that step. You’ll need to talk to your school board and extracurricular organization about specific guidelines.”

Vaccination concept. Little kid in medical face mask getting Covid-19 or flu vaccine at clinic. Woman who works as nurse or doctor at hospital disinfects skin on child's arm before giving injection

How to talk about the vaccine?

Open communication is essential for building trust. If anyone in your family has doubts, an open dialogue weighing the pros and cons can help everyone reach a decision.

“Talk about why the vaccine is important and what it means for the future – the possibility of not having to mask in various situations, protection against severe COVID-19 reactions and getting us closer to the long-awaited end of this pandemic,” Dr. Nauman said. “If you are unsure but your child wants the vaccine, give your child the opportunity to explain their point of view.

“Children have been significantly impacted by this pandemic, disrupting their normal routines, social life and athletics. And we have seen a large impact on the mental health of children due to COVID-19. If you have concerns about the vaccine, do your research and speak with your child’s primary care provider.”

According to the CDC, the vaccine has proven to be safe and may help prevent your child from getting seriously sick if they still get COVID-19.

About Author: David Pruitt

David Pruitt is a writer for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare. He has a bachelor’s of journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and worked as a reporter before joining OSF HealthCare in 2014.

An avid golfer and fisherman, David was born and raised Alton, Illinois, which is where he currently resides with his son, James.

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Categories: COVID-19, Wellness