Should my child get the Covid-19 vaccine? Now that Pfizer/BioNTech has received authorization from the FDA to begin vaccinating children age 12 to 15, that question is on the minds of many parents.
Previous FDA authorization was limited to those age 16 years and older, so parents had no decision to make. They were told to force their children to wear masks, keep their distance from other children, and stay home from school. It has been a devastating year for these children emotionally, educationally, if not physically. Mental health has declined as evidenced by increased rates of suicide and substance abuse, even in this age group.
Now that the vaccine is available to these children, how should parents react? Should they quickly sign their children up for vaccinations? Or should they wait for more proof of the safety of these vaccines?
Naturally, there are some children who should not be vaccinated. Those with compromised immune systems may be warned by their doctors to avoid vaccination. Some doctors may also advise against vaccination since the risk to children with Covid-19 is very low. Yet many parents are eager for their children to resume normal activities which have been denied for over a year.
Robbie Whelan, science writer for The Wall Street Journal, reports the CDC recommended last week the use of the vaccine in the younger age group. More than a dozen states – including California, Washington, Maine, Illinois, Massachusetts, Arkansas and Florida – followed the recommendation and made the 12-to-15 age group eligible, many scheduling vaccine appointments.
Public health officials say vaccinating children is crucial to protecting them from infection and achieving community-wide immunity. Some parents and school officials want children to be vaccinated ahead of summer camps and the start of the next school year. Many teens are eager to resume social activities.
State officials are ramping up ways to make getting children vaccinated even easier. In North Carolina, state officials have signed up 400 pediatricians to do outreach to parents and administer vaccines at their offices. Hospitals will break up Pfizer’s 1,200 dose packets into smaller batches to distribute at pediatric practices, says Mandy Cohen, state health secretary. In addition, dozens of public-school districts in the state have expressed interest in holding on-site vaccination events or joining with local agencies to transport students to vaccination sites.
Since the risk of infection is low, and the risk of serious illness is even lower, some parents may choose to avoid vaccination for their children. However, if vaccination becomes necessary to attend summer camps, travel, or even attend school, the extremely low risk from the vaccines seems justified. The incidence of vaccine complications has been exceptionally low, the efficacy of the vaccines is high, and the benefits of vaccination are a return to life with some semblance of normalcy.
Parents should weigh the pros and cons of vaccinating their children and discuss it with their pediatrician. Whether you get your child vaccinated or not, we should all be grateful there is now a vaccine that is available and safe for children in this age group.