COVID-19 Vaccine and Children: An Online Community Conversation

On June 7, Keith J. Loud, MD, hosted a virtual webinar to address questions and concerns regarding children and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Paul E. Palumbo, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) in Lebanon, New Hampshire, Mary P. Bender, MD, pediatrician at Mount Ascutney Hospital and Health Center and Eleanor L. Maguire, MSN, APRN, primary care pediatric nurse practitioner at CHaD in Nashua, New Hampshire, joined Loud to discuss the important topic.

Why children should get the vaccine

Though children are less likely to experience severe illness as a result of COVID-19, it is important for them to get vaccinated so the risk of transmission to family members and other individuals they come in contact with is reduced.

Also, getting vaccinated greatly reduces the likelihood that they will contract COVID-19 and become ill.

“The risk of significant illness does exist for kids with chronic conditions like obesity, congenital heart disease, asthma and some other pre-existing conditions,” said Maguire.

Dosage and incorporating the COVID-19 vaccine into routine vaccination schedule

For parents who may be concerned about the dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine, Bender clarified that it is typical for the dose to be the same for children and adults.

“You want the dose to be high enough to provide a strong immune response, but low enough to lower the risk of having a lot of side effects,” she explained.

And as far as factoring this vaccine into the routine vaccination schedule, both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics are strongly in favor of getting the vaccine alongside routine immunizations.

Potential side effects

Despite reports of myocarditis, which causes inflammation of the heart muscle, in a handful of young around the time of vaccination, the risk of not getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is much higher than the risk of serious side effects.

“It’s occurring at a very, very low rate, around one in a million,” said Palumbo.

On a more broad scale, there is no evidence to support that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility, puberty or menstrual cycles.

Additional vaccines becoming available to children

Currently, Pfizer’s vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine available to children between the ages of 12-18.

However, Moderna is not far behind, as its trial data has been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is pending approval for the same age group.

In addition, Pfizer and Moderna have active trials going for children between the ages of 5-12, and after that for ages 2-5. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson also have trials in the field.

“It’s important to understand that there are more than these four vaccines out there,” explained Palumbo.

“There are many additional vaccines in earlier stages of development which will eventually be considered for approval by the FDA.”