Ask a Pediatrician: Let’s Talk about the COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids

published Nov 19, 2021
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I’m hesitant about the COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 – 11. What should I expect in terms of side effects, both short-term and long-term? Do you think the testing was rushed at all? How necessary is it, given that kids don’t appear to be affected as badly as adults? Anything you could say to help calm a parent’s anxieties would be incredible. Thank you!


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Hi Shelby! 

Thanks for your important questions. I completely understand why you may be concerned as a parent/caregiver — our children are precious to us. They are our world! As a pediatrician, it’s my calling to help protect children to the best of my abilities.

I just want to start off by saying, yes, overall adults tend to be more affected than children when it comes to COVID-19. However, children can unfortunately be affected too. COVID-19 is the 8th leading cause of death in children, with over 700 childhood deaths, and tens of thousands of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. alone. In addition, a serious inflammatory illness called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children can occur, as well as long COVID (which include long-term symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and brain fog). Children’s lives have been disrupted — kids have suffered from mental health illnesses and school closings. Unfortunately, children can still catch and spread COVID-19 to others, including to loved ones and those they are in close contact with such as other students and teachers. When you actually compare COVID-19 to other diseases that we already vaccinate for, it accounts for more deaths and hospitalizations in kids than several others combined, prior to their vaccines becoming available. As you can see, it is important to vaccinate your children against COVID-19 due to the great risks of the virus!

Secondly, the testing was not at all rushed. Yes, the process was thankfully expedited (we are in a pandemic, after all), but no safety checks were skipped! I can assure you that the pediatric trial size was more than enough to evaluate safety and efficacy — and is comparable to other previous pediatric vaccine trials! In addition, there were no instances of serious adverse events and no cases of myocarditis in the pediatric trials. Lastly, we have already vaccinated millions of Americans with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including those who are 12 and up, so we have plenty of data to show that the vaccines are safe and effective. In addition, we have thorough monitoring systems to track and respond to any new concerns that may arise.

Some short-term side effects after vaccination are totally normal and expected! In general, children seem to tolerate the side effects of vaccination better than adults. These symptoms may include arm soreness, fatigue, and body aches, but they usually resolve 1–2 days after vaccination. These symptoms are normal and mean that antibodies are being made in the body (although many children don’t experience any symptoms at all and that is okay too)! As a pediatrician, I am not concerned about “long-term side effects” from vaccines, as there is no biological plausibility to this theory and bad long-term effects have never occurred before for other non-live vaccines. Contrast this to COVID-19 illness itself, which is known to cause long-term problems, which we still don’t fully understand because the disease is so new.

I hope that I helped to assuage some of your concerns! Remember, COVID-19 can be serious even in children and the vaccine’s benefits far outweigh the cons of COVID-19. It’s all about weighing the pros and cons, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Infectious Disease Society of America, American Academy of Family Physicians, and numerous other professional expert societies and I recommend COVID-19 vaccination to all children age 5 and above.

Dr. Risa Hoshino