Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times/Polaris
Seven-year-old Ari Alleyne receives the children's dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine from RN Priya Meyer, Nursing Professional Development Mgr at Children's Hospital Los Angeles on Nov. 3, 2021.

Now that Covid-19 vaccinations for children age 5 and older are available in California, many parents are eager to sign their children up for the vaccine. But widespread misinformation about Covid-19 and the vaccine has some parents wondering whether to get their child immunized.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Pfizer Covid vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 in May and a pediatric dose of the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in late October. Children 16 and older also are eligible for the adult Pfizer vaccine, which has full approval.

“Vaccines are how we end this pandemic, and they’re how we keep our kids safe – it’s time to get our children the protection they need from this deadly virus, especially as we head into the winter season,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in announcing the state’s rollout of the vaccine on Nov. 3. “California is leading the nation in vaccinations with 54 million administered and 87% of the eligible population with at least one dose, and we’re moving swiftly to implement a robust and equitable vaccination program that will cover this newly eligible age group.”

The federal government plans to give California 1.2 million doses of the children’s vaccine, enough to vaccinate all of its 5- to 11-year-olds, health authorities said.

California K-12 students will be required to be vaccinated against Covid following the FDA’s authorization of the Covid vaccine for each age group age 5 and up. School staff are currently required to be vaccinated or tested, but they will not have the testing option once the student mandate kicks in.

Why should my child be vaccinated against Covid-19?

Clinical trials of the vaccine showed that the vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing Covid-19 in children ages 5 to 11 and 100% effective in teens ages 12 to 15.

Although vaccinated people can still contract Covid and spread it, they are less likely to develop serious illness and spread the disease than those who are unvaccinated and contract Covid-19. High vaccination coverage in a population also reduces the spread of the virus and helps prevent new variants from emerging.

“The Covid-19 vaccine is the best way to keep your child safe and protect them against Covid-19, including the Delta variant,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Education on Nov. 4. “Kids are being infected with Covid-19, occasionally leading to serious illness and even death in certain cases. Even if your child doesn’t get severely ill, they could be diagnosed with what is known as ‘long Covid’ and face long-term health consequences or pass the virus on to others.”

How can Covid-19 impact a child’s health?

Covid can cause long-term health problems, including infertility, “brain fog” and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, in which the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or other organs become inflamed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although most children will have mild symptoms and get better on their own, there have been 6.4 million reported cases of Covid-19 in children under 18, about 16% of all cases nationwide, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children make up 22% of the U.S. population. Almost 900 have died.

In the 5-to-11 age group alone, there have been more than 2 million reported cases of Covid in the United States, resulting in 8,300 hospitalizations and 146 deaths, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of death for children in that age group, said Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner.

Complications from the disease include pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, multi-organ failure, septic shock and death.

Is the vaccine safe for my child?

The FDA has found the vaccines safe and effective for children. In California and other Western states, the trials and other research have also been reviewed by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. All groups found the vaccines to be safe and effective for children.

There are many myths circulating on social media about the vaccine. The vaccines don’t contain metals or ingredients that would make a person magnetic. They don’t contain microchips to track people and because they don’t contain the virus, they don’t cause people to shed the virus inside or outside their body, according to the CDC.

“Parents and guardians can rest assured that we conducted a comprehensive and rigorous evaluation of the data on the vaccine safety and effectiveness, and that this vaccine meets our high standards,” Woodcock said after the approval of the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Vaccine trials for the 5-to-11 age group included 4,600 children, and no serious side effects were detected, Woodcock said. Vaccine trials for the 12-to-15 age group included 2,200 children, with only mild to moderate side effects.

The pediatric vaccine will be given in two doses 21 days apart, like the adult dose. But the doses will only be 10 micrograms — or a third the amount of the adult dose. Adolescents 12 and older get the same dose of Pfizer vaccine as adults.

The Pfizer shot is an mRNA vaccine, which uses a harmless piece of “spike protein” to trigger an immune response in the body, according to the CDC. The Pfizer vaccine itself is new, but mRNA vaccines have been researched for decades. The vaccine doesn’t contain a live virus.

Does the vaccine have side effects?

Many people report they have had no side effects from the Covid vaccine. When there are side effects, the most common, for children and adults, are sore arms at the site of the shot, fatigue and mild fever, said Dr. Norma Perez, a pediatrician and medical director of AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles.

Other potential side effects could include headache, chills, muscle pain, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, nausea and decreased appetite, according to the Mayo Clinic. The side effects usually occur within two days of the vaccination and last one to three days.

In rare instances, the vaccine can cause heart inflammation called myocarditis. In trials, no children ages 5 to 11 contracted the illness, although older children, especially boys, are more susceptible, according to the CDC.  Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and feeling a fast-beating or pounding heart. If a child has those symptoms, seek medical care. Most cases are mild and patients recover at home.

Children are much more likely to contract myocarditis from Covid-19 than from the vaccine, health officials said.

How do I prepare my child for a vaccine?

The CDC recommends:

  • Talk to your child about what to expect.
  • Do not give your child a pain reliever before a vaccination to try to prevent side effects because it could impact how well the vaccine works.
  • Tell the doctor or nurse about any allergies your child may have.
  • You should stay at the vaccination site for 15 to 30 minutes after the vaccine is administered in case of a severe allergic reaction.
  • Your child should be seated during the vaccination and during the waiting period to prevent injury in case of fainting.

Does my child need to be vaccinated if he has already had Covid?

Yes. A CDC study of Kentucky residents showed that unvaccinated individuals are twice as likely to be re-infected with Covid than vaccinated people. The CDC recommends that everyone be vaccinated even if they have had the disease.

There is some level of immunity after a Covid-19 infection, but its duration is unpredictable. A Yale study, published in October, reports that immunity from Covid after recovering from an infection can last from three to 61 months.

Where can my child receive a vaccination?

Vaccines for children are available at clinics, doctor’s offices and schools across California. The state is launching a public information campaign to encourage children and their parents to get vaccinated.

If your child’s pediatrician or school isn’t offering vaccinations, parents can check with their local health department to see where vaccination clinics are being held or call their local pharmacy to see if it is taking appointments for pediatric Covid shots.

Parents can also search the California Department of Public Health’s My Turn website to find a vaccination clinic or make an appointment for a vaccination.

Will I be required to get my child vaccinated?

California’s school Covid-19 vaccine mandate, the nation’s first, applies to all students in kindergarten through 12th grade in public, charter and private schools, and all school employees. It goes into effect in the first semester, either Jan. 1 or July 1, following the FDA’s full approval of the Covid vaccine for each age group.

Only the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved for people 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine has emergency authorization for use in children between the ages of 5 and 11 and adolescents between the ages of 11 and 15.

The requirement follows vaccine mandates in several California school districts for students 12 and over, including Los Angeles UnifiedSan Diego Unified, Sacramento City Unified, Culver City Unified and Oakland Unified. Newsom encouraged other districts to enact their own mandates ahead of the state’s plan.

There is precedent for requiring vaccinations. Under state law, children at public K-12 schools must be immunized against 10 serious communicable diseases if they want to attend public or private schools and child care centers in person.

“The rules are not new; they are well established. In a way, this is the most predictable announcement that we’ve had in this pandemic,” Newsom said. “Every parent is already familiar with these requirements. This is just another vaccine.”

Are there exemptions to the school vaccination mandate?

The requirement leaves open the possibility for families to opt out of the Covid-19 vaccine. Because the mandate comes from the governor, and not the Legislature, it allows exemptions for medical, religious or personal reasons.

Students with these exemptions can attend school in person, said state Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician who chairs the Senate Health Committee. Students who choose independent study, which allows them to study from home, won’t have to file an exemption or get vaccinated, he said.

But the exemption rules could change. State legislators have indicated they are considering legislation to strengthen the vaccine requirement, which could include eliminating some exemptions or outlining how families must obtain exemptions.

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  1. Replies

    • TheMorrigan 2 days ago2 days ago

      That is a great link, Sarah. But you need to be clear here. "Not powered to assess the risk" does not really mean the sample size was too small. It means that the study did not investigate it because it did not appear at all in the 5-11 trial age group. For instance, the 5-11 study was also not powered to assess the risk of microcephalus, childhood diabetes, or organ failure either because … Read More

      That is a great link, Sarah. But you need to be clear here. “Not powered to assess the risk” does not really mean the sample size was too small.

      It means that the study did not investigate it because it did not appear at all in the 5-11 trial age group. For instance, the 5-11 study was also not powered to assess the risk of microcephalus, childhood diabetes, or organ failure either because none of these side-effects manifested in the clinical trial. It is rather difficult to assess a risk when it doesn’t occur at all.

      Because it did appear in clinical trials and VAERS in the 12-17 year-olds range, those studies did do a risk assessment for myocarditis. A risk assessment for a trial is simply an estimated high-end for how often a particular side-effect will appear in the general population, usually done by statisticians and not those scientists involved in a trial.

      BTW, others have done risk assessments for myocarditis in 5-11 year-olds. Look at the Israel study; look at those various groups that vetted the Pfiser study; look at the CDC one; and lastly, look at the next slide in the link you posted: “the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh risks in this population.” That is a risk assessment. And it only adds to the 3,000+ children in the Pfiser study.

      Professionals suggest that there is a puberty/hormone link for myocarditis and that is why it is not appearing as vaccine induced side-effects in 5-11 year-olds. But it is appearing in Covid-19 virus side-effects for all ages.

      In the end it is clear by a long shot: Covid-19 causes myocarditis at a much higher rate than the vaccine does for all ages, and while it is not deadly for a vaccine side-effect, it is deadly for a side-effect for Covid-19.

      The risk/benefit assessment there is obvious when deciding whether or not to vaccinate a child.

  2. kristy 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    All 3 of my kids’ Covid cases were less severe than their common colds they just got over. If kids are healthy and not immunocompromised, why vaccinate against something equivalent to the common cold?

    Replies

    • TheMorrigan 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      While Covid was the leading cause of child death in August and September, something that makes what you did slightly more dangerous than playing in a lightening storm or allowing children to swim unsupervised in a pool for those two months, you are right that the odds are in your favor. Child deaths from Covid are very rare, something like ten for every million people. However, please tell your kids not to play with … Read More

      While Covid was the leading cause of child death in August and September, something that makes what you did slightly more dangerous than playing in a lightening storm or allowing children to swim unsupervised in a pool for those two months, you are right that the odds are in your favor. Child deaths from Covid are very rare, something like ten for every million people.

      However, please tell your kids not to play with my kids or any immunocompromised child on the playground. And please keep them away from anyone older than 65, especially with that kind of caviler attitude.

      Vaccination is not always about you. It is about those around you who are more venerable.

  3. Michael Brajkovich 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Quite a bit of outdated and one-sided (mis)information in this piece about covid vaccines. For one, the larger body of scientific studies, such as in the most recent Lancet study, demonstrate no difference in covid transmission between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, and only a modest difference in infection rate (13%) between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, which makes vaccine mandates unnecessary and illogical. (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00648-4/fulltext) . Regarding myocarditis post infection vs. vaccination, the larger body of scientific … Read More

    Quite a bit of outdated and one-sided (mis)information in this piece about covid vaccines. For one, the larger body of scientific studies, such as in the most recent Lancet study, demonstrate no difference in covid transmission between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, and only a modest difference in infection rate (13%) between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, which makes vaccine mandates unnecessary and illogical. (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00648-4/fulltext) . Regarding myocarditis post infection vs. vaccination, the larger body of scientific literature points, at best, to inconclusive findings, but certainly not at “much higher rates post infection than vaccination” as Dr. Marty Markary of Johns Hopkins and others have pointed out: https://www.wsj.com/articles/should-vaccinate-children-covid-19-infection-natural-immunity-vaccine-mandate-coronavirus-11636384215 . Our federal health agencies, including the CDC and FDA from which most of the information in this article is based, has long been critiqued and exposed by inside whistleblowers and investigative journalists as “captured” by the pharmaceutical industry they are meant to either regulate or remain independent from (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fda-another-government-re_b_130279) . For a more honest and balanced approach to covid-19 and vaccination, it’s advised to review the findings from highly qualified and esteemed scientists and doctors who remain independent of the pharmaceutical industry wishing to push their product- readers might start with viewing those associated with The Great Barrington Declaration, for starters (https://gbdeclaration.org/).

    Replies

    • TheMorrigan 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      Not really as one-sided as what you posted, Michael: 1. You rather misrepresented their results and findings from the Lancet study: "Our findings help to explain how and why the delta variant is being transmitted so effectively in populations with high vaccine coverage. Although current vaccines remain effective at preventing severe disease and deaths from COVID-19, our findings suggest that vaccination alone is not sufficient to prevent all transmission of the delta variant in the household … Read More

      Not really as one-sided as what you posted, Michael:

      1. You rather misrepresented their results and findings from the Lancet study: “Our findings help to explain how and why the delta variant is being transmitted so effectively in populations with high vaccine coverage. Although current vaccines remain effective at preventing severe disease and deaths from COVID-19, our findings suggest that vaccination alone is not sufficient to prevent all transmission of the delta variant in the household setting, where exposure is close and prolonged.”

      2. As for myocarditis, the jury is out. No vaccinated child/teen has died because of myocarditis. However, several unvaccinated children have died from multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is a result from a Covid infection. It is a simple risk/benefit scenario here. There is no uncertainty.

      3. You obviously subscribe to FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Distortions/Disinformation. This is easily proven with your slimy attack on the CDC. If anyone doubts what the CDC is doing all they need to do is verify it with what other industrialized country CDC-like organizations are doing. Yes, they have made mistakes. But like good science, they are constantly fixing their mistakes and updating what they know.

      4. The Great Barrington Declaration is filled with made-up signers and decidedly partisan individuals who put ideology ahead of science. One only needs to look at Sweden, the UK and Florida to see if what they proposed worked well. And we know so much more now than we did in October of 2020 – now that’s outdated, buddy, especially in the time of Covid and what we now know.

    • Smita Patel 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      A widely cited paper on the incidence of myocarditis following the vaccination was withdrawn due to a calculation error that inflated the risk: https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-preprint-myocarditiswithdrawn/fact-check-pre-print-study-that-claimed-1-in-1000-risk-of-myocarditis-following-covid-19-vaccine-was-withdrawn-due-to-miscalculation-idUSL1N2QX1WS

      In a statement, the authors said: “Our reported incidence appeared vastly inflated by an incorrectly small denominator (ie number of doses administered over the time period of the study).”