Need to Know: COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids
There are nearly 28 million children between the ages of 5 to 11 living in the United States. As of February 2022, over four million cases of COVID-19 have been reported within this age group.
Children who get sick with COVID-19 share the same risks as adults including:
- Severe or long-term illness
- Long-term and short-term complications
- Spreading the disease to others
The best way to protect kids from COVID-19 is vaccination. Leading health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and North Dakota Department of Health recommend children get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect them and the community around them.
Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions. Contact your healthcare provider to answer specific questions about the vaccine available for children ages 5-11.
Most kids who catch COVID-19 have mild symptoms or may not have any symptoms at all. However, there are some children who become seriously ill from COVID-19 and need hospitalization and life support. Some children even die or experience severe complications.
It’s hard to predict who will get seriously ill. Children with existing risk factors like immunocompromised conditions are particularly vulnerable. But even healthy children can become very sick from the virus.
The vaccine helps prevent serious illness from COVID-19.
COVID-19 infection has also been linked to a rare but serious health condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Children who develop MIS-C experience inflammation in different body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. These children may face ongoing health issues due to heart or other organ damage as a result of COVID-19 infection.
- As of January 11th, 2021, North Dakota has reported 7 cases of MIS-C for children ages 5-11.
- There have been over 6,000 cases of MIS-C recorded in the United States. MIS-C is most frequent among children ages 5-11 with the median age of cases being 9 years old.
Anyone regardless of age can have long-term side effects from COVID-19, some of which can be serious. Lasting conditions after infection appear less likely in children than adults, but long-term effects have been seen in children and adolescents.
Prolonged effects that have been confirmed in children after a COVID-19 infection include:
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Muscle or joint pain
- Heart palpitations
- Mental health changes like changes in short term memory and concentration
Before the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5 to 11 was given emergency authorization, extensive trials were conducted with thousands of children. No safety concerns were raised in trials. The vaccine is continually monitored as more children are given it, and the known benefits far outweigh the potential risks. Learn more about the Pfizer vaccine for children here.
In rare cases, some young people may experience myocarditis/pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) following a COVID-19 mRNA vaccination. These occur most often in males and are typically mild to not life-threatening. Zero cases of myocarditis/pericarditis occurred during Pfizer’s vaccine trials. There have been 12 cases of myocarditis reported after more than 8 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine in the 5-11 year old population. The risk of myocarditis/pericarditis after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are lower than the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis associated with a COVID-19 infection in adolescents and adults.
Mild or moderate side effects in children have been reported, but many feel no side effects. The most common side effects are:
- Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
- Low fever
- Muscle or joint pain
Side effects are a good sign the immune system is working well and making antibodies against COVID-19.
Children can receive the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same time. In North Dakota these vaccines include Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), Polio, Hepatitis A and B, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis, Chickenpox and a few others. Click here for more information about immunizations for your child.
Vaccines may be administered at:
- Family practices
- Pediatric clinics
- Local public health departments
Availability and locations will be specific to where you live. Visit Vaccines.gov to find a location near you or call the North Dakota Department of Health Hotline at 1.866.207.2880 for help.
Vaccination Against COVID-19
The CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Community on Immunization Practices all recommend children ages 5 to 11 be vaccinated to prevent serious illness and further spread of the disease.
Help Experts Monitor Side Effects
The CDC conducts the most thorough vaccine monitoring for COVID-19 vaccines than any vaccine in U.S. history. You can help by reporting any side effects your child experiences to track the safety of vaccines in real-time. One way is the v-safe smartphone app which lets you tell the CDC how you or your child are feeling after getting the vaccine. Another is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) website which lets you report adverse events, like multisystem inflammatory syndrome.
Continue to Stay Safe
Your child should follow CDC safety guidelines after vaccination for additional protection including:
- Masking outside the home or where mandated
- Practice social distancing outside the home when possible, and follow school guidelines for social distancing
- Practice good hygiene including frequent hand washing
- Cover coughs and sneezes with the elbow or tissues
Parents can read the latest CDC recommendations for testing and isolation here. Your child’s school may have additional guidelines if your child develops COVID-19 symptoms. Do your best to provide requested information to contract tracers after reporting your child has tested positive for COVID-19.