Is the COVID Vaccine Safe for Kids?
Editor’s note: Many parents wonder about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Here, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital addresses vaccine fears.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for kids?
We know that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine is safe and effective for kids ages 5 and up. This is based on data from a clinical trial involving thousands of adolescents. Because most negative effects from this type of vaccine—called an mRNA vaccine—occur within six weeks of receiving the shot, the FDA asked the manufacturer to provide eight weeks of safety data after the last dose. None of the vaccinated adolescents experienced severe side effects or became infected with COVID-19.
Researchers are still studying the vaccine’s safety in kids younger than 12 as well as the safety of other COVID vaccines in people younger than 18.
A very small percentage of people may have a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, to any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine. If anaphylaxis occurs, vaccine providers have medication on hand to treat it immediately.
Some parents have expressed concerns about the vaccine. Here are the facts on a few common misconceptions.
Myth: Due to the pandemic’s urgency, COVID vaccines weren’t tested as thoroughly as other medications.
Fact: The vaccine manufacturers and the FDA followed all the usual protocols for testing vaccines. Thanks to ample funding and large numbers of clinical trial volunteers, the process was faster than usual, but no steps were skipped. The prevalence of the virus also allowed researchers to complete their studies relatively quickly.
Myth: The vaccines are risky for adolescents because their bodies are still developing.
Fact: The mRNA vaccines don’t affect hormone levels, and there’s no reason to believe they could impact adolescents’ development or reproductive health, either immediately after vaccination or years later.
Myth: The vaccine can cause recipients to shed the virus and infect others.
Fact: The COVID vaccines used in the United States don’t contain live virus, so getting vaccinated can’t cause someone to shed the virus. You can’t contract COVID-19 from the vaccine.
If kids have a milder response to the coronavirus, why should my child get vaccinated?
Although children have a lower risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, it still happens. Consider the following:
• As of September 2021, more than 5 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 555 of them died of it. Nearly 60,000 pediatric COVID patients have been hospitalized in the past year.
• Some kids with COVID develop a dangerous condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. Since the beginning of the pandemic, several thousand children have been diagnosed with MIS-C. About 60 percent to 70 percent of them required intensive care, and about 1 percent to 2 percent died.
• We don’t yet know whether infection with COVID-19 has any long-term effects on kids’ health.
Vaccination is highly effective in protecting people from contracting the virus and in preventing serious symptoms in those who do contract COVID. Vaccinating all eligible children and adults is also critical for limiting the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable family and community members, such as those with underlying conditions that put them at risk of serious illness if they get COVID.
Widespread vaccination has the potential to end the pandemic and allow us all to return to school, work, and all the activities we enjoy.
Reprinted with permission from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, ucsfbenioffchildrens.org.