How can parents talk to children about the vaccine and its side effects?
Be honest with your children. Explain to them that while the shot may pinch or sting for a brief moment, it won’t hurt for long, and it helps protect them from getting sick. Remind them that they may feel some mild symptoms for a short time after, but those will go away too, and it’s a sign that their immune system is working. Pain relievers like Tylenol or ibuprofen can be used if needed to help them through it. Help them to see that vaccines are a good thing and they keep us safe.
Could the vaccine cause future infertility in children?
This is a false claim, as there is no data that shows the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility, or any biological reason why we would suspect that it would. Moreover, the mRNA vaccines are short lived in your body and do not integrate with your DNA.
What are the current masking recommendations for unvaccinated kids?
Unvaccinated children should still abide by the CDC’s guidance: They should wear masks in public and indoors with people outside of their household. They should also avoid crowds and stay six feet apart. This helps to protect them and others.
What are the masking recommendations for kids who are vaccinated, in particular, if they are going to be in a setting with kids who have not been vaccinated?
The CDC just issued new guidance saying that vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outside of their household, except when it is a requirement, say, at a local business or healthcare setting. Vaccinated children can be among other vaccinated children and do not have to wear masks.
However, congregating unvaccinated children with vaccinated children is not recommended. Children who have received the vaccine—while the risk is extremely low—could still catch the virus and pass it on to children who have not been vaccinated.
What would you say to parents who are still anxious about their kids receiving a COVID-19 vaccine?
I would tell them that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of a COVID-19 infection. As pediatricians, we have cared for children who required life-saving measures due to the infection, and some who didn’t make it. We have witnessed the rise of a new post-infectious inflammatory disease, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which primarily affects children and can result in long-term cardiovascular disease and even death. We now have in hand the ultimate tool to fight these devastating diseases caused by the pandemic virus: preventing it in the first place through vaccination.
Will the vaccine be recommended for babies?
The COVID-19 vaccines that are available—Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—are currently undergoing several clinical trials at varying stages to determine their safety and effectiveness in children as young as 6 months old. We could see vaccines become authorized for use by the FDA in children under 2 years old as soon as later this year.