Many parents and children wonder what it means to have this vaccine. Do vaccinated children still have to mask themselves in schools? Can they see more friends and have sleepovers now? And do young children really get so sick from Covid-19?
CNN: What do we know about the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11?
Dr. Léana Wen: According to data reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, the Covid-19 vaccine is over 90% effective against symptomatic illnesses in children in this younger age group. This is great and it gives parents a lot of reassurance that their young children will have an excellent layer of protection once the vaccine is cleared and they can get the vaccine.
Loupe: The CDC said children should remain masked in schools, even after being vaccinated. I think this is a position that should be changed over time, depending on local circumstances.
We can think of all protective measures as diapers, just like you wear diapers when it’s cold outside. The colder it gets, the more you need to wear to stay warm. Some layers are better than others.
If there are a lot of viruses in the community, the risk is high and we need many layers of protection. If the virus level is low, we need fewer diapers. The vaccine is the best diaper we have, so once young children are vaccinated it would be reasonable to discuss what other diapers it can replace. In areas of low community transmission, and especially if other layers like testing are in place, it may be reasonable to reconsider masking. This is especially true if all the children in a class are known to be vaccinated.
However, it will take some time for children to get the vaccine. There are also many parts of the country where community transmission is high. I wouldn’t expect the masks to suddenly disappear once vaccines for young children are available. Some schools already don’t require masks and, of course, just because masks aren’t mandatory doesn’t mean kids have to take them off.
CNN: What about other social activities – can young vaccinated children participate in more activities, including going to sleepovers and going to the movies?
Loupe: It depends on the parents and the level of risk tolerance in the family. Many families do not allow young children to participate in high-risk activities because the children are not yet immunized. After children are fully immunized, many parents may decide to add some activities again. Remember that being fully immunized requires two doses, then wait up to two weeks after the second dose.
Perhaps the parents had taken their children out of basketball or soccer because these sports took place indoors. Once children are vaccinated, they might decide that the risk of exposure is now much lower and therefore worth the benefit to the child.
If the child is vaccinated and spends a sleepover with other vaccinated children, the risk would also be much lower now than before the children were vaccinated.
In fact, after vaccination, all activities, including going to the movies, will be much safer. Parents should assess the medical risks in their home and discuss with their children what each can do once vaccinated.
A family that has babies or children 4 and under, or who lives with an elderly parent who is immunocompromised, may still decide to continue taking precautions, including avoiding crowded indoor environments with people of unknown immunization status. . On the other hand, a family that is now fully vaccinated and generally healthy may choose to resume many pre-pandemic activities.
CNN: Is the vaccine safe for children 5 to 11 years old? What kinds of side effects should they expect?
Loupe: In a study of over 2,000 children aged 5 to 11, the vaccine was found to be safe, with the same types of side effects seen in adults. These side effects include arm pain, redness at the injection site, fatigue, fever, chills, and headache. They are usually worse within 24 hours of getting the vaccine, and they will go away within a few days.
It is important to note that there were no cases of myocarditis or inflammation of the heart muscle in the study. However, myocarditis is rare and may not be seen in a study of this size. It is possible that as more children are vaccinated, cases of myocarditis may be detected, as the inflammatory disease has been linked to the Pfizer vaccine, mainly in younger men under the age of 30.
It is crucial to note that myocarditis also occurs with Covid-19, and the potential risk of myocarditis associated with the vaccine must be weighed against the benefit of the vaccine in preventing a host of problems associated with the disease.
CNN: What about the long-term side effects of the vaccine?
Loupe: Covid-19 vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people around the world since December. Side effects are seen during the first few weeks of administration, not months after. We also have experience with many other childhood vaccinations, which follow the same pattern. Therefore, there is no scientific or physiological reason to believe that the vaccines would cause long-term side effects. On the flip side, we know that the coronavirus itself causes long-term problems, including in children.
CNN: What about children between the ages of 5 and 11 who live with younger siblings who are still not eligible for the vaccine? How should they still manage the risk?
Loupe: Parents need to decide how much risk they are willing to tolerate. Many could continue to take extra precautions, but knowing that their vaccinated children are better protected, they might decide to allow the return of some extracurricular activities and the resumption of certain activities indoors, especially if their vaccinated children do not team up. than others who are fully vaccinated. , too much.
CNN: What would you say to parents who are still hesitant to vaccinate their children?
Loupe: I understand! As parents, we all want the best for our children.
I think it’s important to point out that children can and do get very sick from Covid-19. According to data presented at the FDA meeting on October 26, there have been 1.8 million cases of Covid-19 in the 5 to 11 age group. Over 8,000 children in this age group have been hospitalized and tragically 143 have died. While many had underlying conditions, about a third of these critically ill children were generally healthy.
Everything we do for our children is weigh the risks against the benefits. Consider the known risks of Covid-19 as well as the benefits of vaccines. For my family, we can’t wait to get our young children vaccinated when it’s allowed for them, so that we can resume many of the activities that we put on hold for the sake of our children. For many other families, there will be so much relief once their children can be vaccinated and enjoy this excellent level of protection against a potentially fatal disease.
If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to speak with your pediatrician – and, in the meantime, let’s make sure all adults and older children who can be vaccinated do too.