Read below for some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the COVID-19 vaccine for children.
Why should I get my child vaccinated?
The COVID-19 vaccine works similarly to other vaccines your child has had. Germs such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, invade and multiply inside the body. The vaccine helps stop this by teaching the immune system to recognize and make antibodies that fight the virus.
After your child is fully vaccinated, there is less of a chance they will get COVID-19, including a severe case. And if they do get infected with the virus, including the widely circulating Delta variant, they likely will not be as sick as they would without the vaccine. If they get the virus, they also are much less likely to be hospitalized with complications like MIS-C, an inflammatory condition that happens in one in every 3,000 or so COVID-19 infections in children, and is most common in the 5-to-11-year age group. And there is the risk of long COVID if your child gets the virus, which some children continue to suffer for months after initial infection , due to persistent symptoms.
Children are also important members of our communities and if they are vaccinated they are much less likely to transmit the virus to others! So by getting vaccinated your child helps to protect themselves and others!
Are the vaccines safe for children?
Although the specific COVID-19 vaccine was developed very rapidly, the mRNA vaccine platform it is based on has been studied for decades. Tens of thousands of volunteers were involved in clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines, which showed that the COVID-19 vaccines are remarkably safe and effective, and millions of people around the globe have received them in the past 12 months. Nearly half of all kids 12- to 17 years old in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated! That’s more than 11 million kids who have had both of their doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines continue to be monitored very closely. In fact, the CDC says that COVID-19 vaccines will have “the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.”
You may have heard news about a small number of adolescents and young adults who experienced mild cases of heart inflammation (called myocarditis) after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Most recovered on their own or with minimal treatment and rest. Based on the latest evidence, myocarditis appears to be an extremely rare side effect—one that pales in comparison to the potential risks of COVID-19 infection. The CDC, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics and other major medical groups, continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination.
How should I talk with my child about the COVID-19 vaccine?
Talk about how important vaccines are and encourage questions! You can use language like “Our bodies are super cool and do a great job keeping us safe from germs. Sometimes, though, our bodies need help! Vaccines teach our bodies how to fight those bad guy germs and help keep us from getting sick. If we aren’t sick, we can’t make other people sick and that helps protect the people we love from being sick too. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is an important way to keep everyone healthy and safe.”
Here is a great video to watch with your child: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOlrNlvEiMw
My kid is 11.5; should I wait until they turn 12 so they get the “full” dose of the vaccine?
The dose being given to children under age 12 is ⅓ the dose given to adults. While it might then be easy to think that an 11.5 year old should wait and get the full dose when they turn 12, or you might think “gosh, my 11 year old is just as big as some 12 year olds” the calculation isn’t quite that simple. In addition to the differences in size and weight children’s immune systems evolve quite a bit as they get older, and the data shows that 11 year olds have as much immune response to the children’s dose as do 5 year olds, and with likely fewer side effects than they would have if given the full adult dose. So there’s no reason to wait until your kid turns 12; giving them the children’s dose as soon as possible is the best way to keep them safe.
Where can I get my child vaccinated in DC?
In the coming days and weeks, the vaccine will be available at more than 60 pharmacies, hospitals, and health centers across all eight wards of DC. Listed below are sites, by ward, that are expected to begin vaccinating children this week. Additionally, vaccines.gov will get updated with which sites have the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Beginning this weekend, the District will host pop-up vaccination clinics for children 5-11 years old at schools and other sites. These sites will not require appointments and more information about specific sites and hours for pop-up clinics this weekend will be released in the coming days. When specific times and any relevant sign-up information is available we will update this information.
In addition, vaccines will initially be available at select community pharmacies such as CVS, Giant, Grubb’s, Safeway, Walgreens and Walmart, as well as health clinics throughout the community. Children’s National Hospital has already announced that in addition to offering the COVID-19 vaccine to their pediatric patients at their eight primary care locations, they will also be offering the vaccine via their Mobile Unit throughout the community. We encourage you to check the websites of these pharmacies to see availability and book appointments.
Remember, too, that the immune protection following vaccination doesn’t fully kick in until about 2 weeks after the 2nd dose of the vaccine (which is given 3 weeks after the first). So if you are looking ahead to winter break travel you may want to get your child their first vaccine dose by mid to late November, to allow about 5 weeks before winter break.
For more information, visit our resources post!