The FDA is planning to meet soon to discuss the next eligible age group, children ages 5-11, for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, and pediatricians are preparing to administer the shots, once the vaccine is approved.
Doctors at Advocate Children’s Hospital have been talking with families and parents, listening to their questions and concerns.
Misinformation about the vaccine is a big concern for Advocate doctors, who composed a list of the top myths they’re hearing.
COVID Vaccine and Children: Myth Busting
- Myth: Vaccines were rushed and may not be safe for children.
• The vaccines are safe for children; clinical trial data showed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine to be safe and effective for ages 12 and up. While the process of approval was accelerated, vaccines for coronaviruses have been studied for decades. This vaccine is a product of those studies. The Pfizer vaccine was studied in more than 2,200 children ages 12 to 15 years old. Reported side effects mirrored those adults experienced (pain at the injection site, fatigue and body aches). Research has shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 12 through 15. The vaccine is 91% effective in preventing severe illness with COVID-19 in people age 16 and older.
- Myth: Young people don’t need to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Kids don’t get COVID-19 and if they do, it is mild.
• Children can and are contracting COVID-19, though their cases tend to be less severe than those seen in adults. The Delta variant is now the most dominant variant among children and is extremely contagious; millions of children have been diagnosed. More children are being hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infection than was seen earlier in the pandemic.
• The vaccine protects eligible children from getting sick, and it can help protect others as well. When young people get COVID-19, there is a high risk they can transmit it to others who are at risk for more serious COVID-19.
• Additionally, a COVID-19-related condition called the pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome is life-threatening and we have seen multiple cases here in Chicago and thousands across the nation; children have died from it. We still do not know the long-term effects of COVID-19—if they get COVID, it could negatively impact their future health.
- Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine will impact fertility.
• Professional medical organizations serving people of reproductive age, including adolescents, emphasize that there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes a loss of fertility. These organizations also recommend COVID-19 vaccination for people who may consider getting pregnant in the future.
• Many people have become pregnant after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, including some who got vaccinated during COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. In addition, a recent report using the v-safe safety monitoring system data showed that 4,800 people had a positive pregnancy test after receiving a first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (i.e., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). Another report using data from 8 U.S. healthcare systems documented more than 1,000 people who completed COVID-19 vaccination (with any COVID-19 vaccine) before becoming pregnant.
• There is currently no evidence that antibodies made following COVID-19 vaccination or that vaccine ingredients would cause any problems with becoming pregnant now or in the future. In a recent in vitro fertilization (a type of fertility treatment) study, researchers compared pregnancy success rates among three groups of women. Women with:
o Antibodies from having been vaccinated against COVID-19
o Antibodies from having a recent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19
o No antibodies from either having a recent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or from having been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The study found no differences in pregnancy success rates among the three
- Myth: My child already had COVID-19, so they don’t need to get the vaccine.
• Everyone who is eligible should be vaccinated, regardless of age or whether they already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not yet know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. It’s also possible – although rare – that someone could be infected with COVID-19 again, even after recovering. Talk to your doctor or pediatrician if you’re unsure about how long you or your child should wait to get vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19.
- Myth: My child can’t get a COVID-19 vaccine before or after getting another vaccine.
• Our pediatricians are encouraging parents to consider getting their child the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same visit. There is no need to wait a period of time between vaccinations. Data has shown that the side effects of vaccines – as well as the way our bodies develop antibodies for each vaccine – are generally the same when administered alone or simultaneously.
- Myth: My child could have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine.
• Among the millions of individuals, including children, given the vaccine, allergic reactions have been incredibly low. Those who administer vaccines make you stay for 15 minutes after the shot to make sure your child is fine.
• Reactions post-vaccine include arm pain, low fever, fatigue and muscle aches—nothing lasting for more than a day or two.
- Myth: The current COVID-19 vaccines don’t protect against the COVID-19 variants.
• In the U.S., the Delta variant is now the most common COVID-19 variant. It is nearly twice as contagious as earlier variants and might cause more severe illness. While research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are slightly less effective against the variants, the vaccines still appear to provide protection against severe COVID-19 (Source: Mayo Clinic).
i. Early research from the U.K. suggests that, after full vaccination, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 88% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 virus. The vaccine is also 96% effective at preventing severe disease with the COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant.
ii. Early research from Canada suggests that, after one dose, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is 72% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant. One dose of the vaccine is also 96% effective at preventing severe disease with the COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant.
iii. The Janssen/Johnson Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is 85% effective at preventing severe disease with the COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant, according to data released by Johnson Johnson.
- Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines will alter my child’s DNA.
• The way in which the vaccine was made does not target DNA for adults or children, so it cannot affect or change a person’s DNA.
• Essentially, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This allows our immune system to more quickly recognize the virus that causes COVID-19, mount an immune response, and more quickly handle the virus. This mechanism of vaccine development has been studied since 2011 and is both safe and effective.
• The first COVID-19 vaccines to reach the market were messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines work by instructing cells in the body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. Injecting mRNA into your body will not interact or do anything to the DNA of your cells. Human cells break down and get rid of the mRNA soon after they have finished using the instructions.
- Myth: My child will get COVID-19 from getting the vaccine.
• There is no active virus within the vaccine making it impossible for your child to contract the disease from the shot.
• The COVID-19 vaccine will protect your child, not infect them.
• Side effects from receiving the COVID-19 vaccination are similar to those that are felt with most other vaccinations – arm soreness at the location of vaccination is common. Some people also experience fever, headache, and tiredness.
- Myth: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine means my child can stop wearing my mask and taking coronavirus precautions.
• The CDC continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and makes recommendations for wearing face masks, both for those who are fully vaccinated as well as those who are not fully vaccinated.
Additional sources: CDC, AAP, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins.