Céline Gounder, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist and Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD, Pediatrician answer parents’ questions on the COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 6 months and older.
Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD, Pediatrician: My name is Edith Bracho-Sanchez. I am a pediatrician and I have been on the ground treating families throughout this pandemic.
Celine Gounder, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist & Epidemiologist: I’m Dr. Celine Gounder. I’m an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist, and I’m also a senior fellow and editor-at-large at the Kaiser Family Foundation and Kaiser Health News.
THE COVID VACCINES ARE SAFE FOR KIDS 6 MONTHS AND OLDER
Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD: It took a while to get the vaccine for our smallest little kids because we had to figure out what the right dose to give them was. And, we wanted to minimize side effects, while at the same time making sure that we were actually triggering the immune system to make that protection against COVID-19.
Celine Gounder, MD: It was really important to make sure that these vaccines were truly safe, even in the youngest of kids. And, so, that did require extra steps, extra trials to assess that.
Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD: Usually, we want to make sure that we have something that works and that is safe in adults and then we move to kids.
Celine Gounder, MD: We know the vaccine is safe in kids because it was tested in clinical trials where children are given the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at various different doses and we did not see any serious side effects. Only the usual fever, maybe, irritation at the vaccination site and the common other side effects we see, really with any vaccine, that are mild and manageable.
YES, KIDS NEED TO BE VACCINATED AGAINST COVID
Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD: I really believe that every parent out there is trying to do the best they can for their kid. I do want you to know, however, that every day that your child is not vaccinated is the day that your child is vulnerable, not just to COVID-19 as an illness, but also to the serious complications that come with the illness.
Celine Gounder, MD: People have said that COVID is less deadly in children. That is true if you’re comparing the elderly versus little kids. But, if you look at vaccine preventable diseases and young children, COVID is actually far more deadly than the flu. So, yes, we are strongly recommending that all children from six months and older get vaccinated.
IT TAKES TIME TO BUILD IMMUNITY. DON’T DELAY.
Celine Gounder, MD: It will take a couple months, whether you’re talking about the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine, for them to be fully immune.
Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD: We have to account not only for the time that it takes to take every single booster and regimen shot, but also the two weeks after you’re finished. So, if your goal is to have your child ready and protected for school, you have to start as soon as possible to make sure that you’ve given it enough time for the immune system to build up that protection.
EVEN KIDS WHO HAD COVID NEED TO BE VACCINATED
Edith Bracho-Sanchez, MD: Yes, if your child had COVID, you still want them to be vaccinated.
Celine Gounder, MD: The immunity you get from a prior infection with COVID is often not protective against new variants and that immunity from a prior infection also wanes. So, we strongly recommend that even if your child has…