What Should I Know Before Immunizing my 12-15 y/o Against Covid-19?

What Should I Know Before Immunizing my 12-15 y/o Against Covid-19?

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Many parents who desperately sought out vaccines for themselves earlier in the year are now asking tough questions about vaccinating their children 12-15 years old.  As a pediatrician, I take pride in reassuring parents that we are much more cautious, conservative, and thoughtful with our children’s health than our own.  And it is totally understandable that we hold new therapeutics for them to a higher standard of safety.  The good news is that this vaccine is very safe, incredibly effective, has very mild side effects, and it is helping kids get back into their normal school, social, sporting, vacation, camp, and family lives.

Here are some of the most common questions parents have about the COVID-19 vaccine. . .

Where can I get my child vaccinated?  Can I bring them to The Village Doctor to get vaccinated?

Unfortunately, the nature of the vaccine’s storage requirements and current distribution channels do not favor vaccinating in most doctors’ offices. As processes change and if Moderna’s vaccine is approved in younger children, this may become possible in the coming months. For now, the vaccine is plentiful and easy to get from a number of pharmacies, county vaccination events, and large hospital systems. Visit https://myturn.ca.gov/ to find vaccine appointments.  You can also schedule through Stanford Children’s using their website or by calling (844) 365-0724. Parental consent is required, so if you cannot accompany them, be sure to follow the instructions given during registration to provide consent.

Which vaccines have been authorized for children?

The FDA has given emergency authorization only to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so far, but Moderna has just announced completion of its trial for children 12-15 years old and may be a 2nd option available soon.

When will younger children be able to get vaccinated?

Pfizer plans to ask the FDA for emergency authorization in September for children 2-11.  Moderna expects results from its clinical trials in children as young as 6 months by year’s end.

Is the dose of the Pfizer vaccine different for adults than children?

The dose for children 12-17 years old is the same as for adults: two doses of 30 micrograms given three weeks apart.  When the vaccine is eventually authorized for even younger children, it is possible the dosing may be different. 

Will the vaccine be required by schools?

This depends on whether your child attends a private or public school.  Private schools, day care centers, and camps can require vaccination as a prerequisite to attendance.  So far, more than 100 colleges have mandated vaccines before students return to campus in the fall.  Vaccine requirements for public K-12 schools fall to each state’s legislature.  So far, no state has mandated COVID vaccination as a condition of returning to school.

Are the side effects different for children than adults?

Fevers were slightly more common in 12 to 15 year olds than adults, but in general, the side effects were similar to those experienced by adults.  The most commonly reported side effects are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headaches, chills, muscle aches, fever, and joint pain.  While pain at the injection site was common after both shots, more 12 to 15 year olds reported side effects after the 2nd shot than after the 1st. 

Should I give my child Tylenol or Advil before getting the vaccine?

No.  Nor should you give it soon after getting the vaccine hoping to ward off side effects.  Wait to see if your child develops discomfort before giving Tylenol or Advil.  Studies show that pre-medicating or scheduled around-the-clock medicating blunts the vaccine’s effectiveness.  If your child develops fever or aches, it’s fine and appropriate to give a dose.

Can a child get the vaccine recently after getting other vaccines or at the same time as other vaccines? 

Yes.  The CDC, as a precautionary measure in the early days of vaccine distribution, initially recommended waiting 2 weeks before or after receiving the COVID vaccine to get any other vaccines.  It now says the COVID vaccine and other vaccines can be given without regard to timing.

Sky Pittson, MD,  May 26, 2021