Your questions about childhood coronavirus vaccines have been answered

On Tuesday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved coronavirus vaccinations for children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old. “We know that millions of parents want to vaccinate their children,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement, noting that 28 million children are now eligible for vaccination.

Although the federal government has already begun the process of delivering doses to states, the Biden administration said the effort will begin in earnest next week.

Six-year-old Clara Bengle is sitting on her mother’s knees ready for a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a vaccine clinic in San Diego on November 10th.

Clara Bengle, 6, on her mother’s lap, is preparing for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a vaccine clinic at Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego on Wednesday. (Mike Blake / Reuters)

Childhood vaccinations may signal a new phase in the pandemic, but many parents have expressed hesitation about inoculating their children. Only 27 percent of respondents said they want to do so, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

Below, some common concerns are addressed by Dr. Lucy McBride, a Washington, internist who writes about the coronavirus pandemic, and other experts.

I have heard that children do not receive COVID-19. Is that true?

It is not.

Although it is true that older people are more susceptible to coronavirus infection, children can also contract it.

“While children are generally less at risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, there have been children who have become very ill,” McBride told Yahoo News. “Tragically, there were children who died of COVID – and getting the vaccine is much safer than getting COVID-19.”

According to CDC statistics, 65,040 children nationwide were hospitalized for COVID-19 and 793 died. About 5,000 children have also experienced many symptoms, such as abdominal pain, which are collectively called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C.

“We should not underestimate the impact on children,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser, said at Wednesday’s press conference with the White House pandemic response team.

What about the side effects of the vaccine?

A medical technician is preparing a COVID-19 acceleration shot at a vaccine clinic at the Municipal Building in Haverford Township, Penn., On October 25, for first responders and those eligible for the acceleration shots of all three vaccines.

At the Municipal Building in Haverford Township, Penn., A COVID-19 vaccine clinic was held for first responders and those eligible to receive accelerating shots of all three vaccines on October 25th. (Pete Bannan / MediaNews Group / Daily Times for Getty Images)

“The most common side effect was a painful arm,” Walensky said during Wednesday’s press conference. In an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition, she said clinical trials revealed “not one case of severe side effect,” according to data presented by. Pfizer.

“Children who are 5 to 11 years old experience the same side effects that adults and older children do,” McBride says.

One constant concern has been myocarditis, a heart disease that can affect younger men. According to Pfizer, there were no cases of myocarditis in its clinical trial for the youngest vaccination cohort.

“The risk of COVID-19 on the heart is greater than the potential risk for myocarditis in this population,” McBride says. And while myocarditis is a major concern, the median age for post-vaccination myocarditis was 24, according to findings from last summer, suggesting the youngest children are less at risk.

In addition, most cases of myocarditis that followed vaccination were found to be mild.

Will the vaccine protect against long-term COVID?

Prolonged COVID is a multitude of physiological and sometimes neurological symptoms that can persist even after a person has otherwise recovered from COVID-19.

“Long COVID is supposed to be less common in children than in adults. But we also need to realize that you can’t have long COVID if you don’t get COVID initially,” says McBride. “So again, another argument in favor of vaccination is to reduce the chance of getting COVID and long COVID as a consequence.”

Is the vaccine given to children the same as the one that was available for adults?

A patient in Houston, receives a COVID-19 vaccine in October after the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, banned COVID-19 vaccine warrants from any entity, including private employers.

A patient in Houston, receives a COVID-19 vaccine in October after the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, banned COVID-19 vaccine warrants from any entity, including private employers. (Callaghan O’Hare / Reuters)

Yes, only in smaller doses, partly to avoid adverse effects like myocarditis. While an adult dose of the Pfizer vaccine is 30 micrograms, the pediatric dose is 10 micrograms. Like adults, however, children are expected to receive two shots, and to space those shots at least three weeks apart.

Children’s immune systems are not fully developed, and immunologists have tried to balance the protection offered by vaccines with any risks the vaccines may present.

“If you can get the same level of protection at a lower dose, that just makes sense,” Dr. Grace Lee, a Stanford expert on childhood infectious diseases who sits on a key federal advisory panel on vaccine, told Atlantic.

What if my child already had COVID-19?

“We absolutely recommend that children who have previously had COVID also receive vaccines. That is certainly our recommendation,” Walensky said on Wednesday. “It strengthens their protection, and is safe to do.”

A recent CDC study showed that natural immunity is more than five times less effective at offering protection against COVID-19 than vaccination.

Walensky said children who already had the coronavirus should still receive both doses of the vaccine, instead of a single dose.

What does all this mean for masking in schools?

Teacher Emma Rossi is working with her first-grade students in September at the Sokolowski School in Chelsea, Mass., Where students and teachers are required to wear masks.

Teacher Emma Rossi is working with her first-grade students in September at the Sokolowski School in Chelsea, Mass., Where students and teachers are required to wear masks. (Brian Snyder / Reuters)

Nothing, so far. Federal officials are well aware that people are tired of wearing masks. However, they may have to do this for several more months, if only because millions remain unvaccinated and winter is on its way. The coronavirus spreads much more effectively indoors than outdoors, and masks remain an effective, if uncomfortable, way to mitigate that spread.

Late last month, Walensky said the CDC “will continue to recommend masks in all schools, for all people in those schools.”

That said, states and local districts could violate that leadership, as some Republican elected officials already have. Even in left-wing circles, the conversation about putting on masks at school began. “The vaccine should change things for us, and we don’t want kids to wear masks in school indefinitely,” a leading aerosol scientist, Linsey Marr, reported in the New York Times last week.

Where can I register? And when?

That largely depends on where you live. The federal government and Pfizer have begun sending vaccines to pediatricians ’offices, community health centers, pharmacies and schools. However, the White House pandemic response team coordinator, Jeff Zients, warned that the childhood vaccination was not expected to be fully operational until Nov. 8.

Some parents have reported success finding appointments on websites for pharmacies like CVS, which have been vaccinating adults and teens for months.

The federal government provides a search engine for vaccination sites.

Explore how the Delta variant correlates with the national political landscape in this 3D experience of the Yahoo Immersive Team.

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