Q:Since finding out they lowered the vaccine age for Pfizer to 12- to 15-year-olds, I have been on the fence about getting my teenager vaccinated. Is it really necessary?
Your question hits close to home as I have a 15-year-old daughter and my wife was wondering the exact same thing.
“It is too new,” she said to me the day the news came out that the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 12- to-15-year-olds. “Let’s give it a little time to see how it goes.”
Her feelings are echoed by many parents just like you. We have all seen that kids seem to have a much lower risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, with markedly lower rates of hospitalizations and deaths. So why give them the shot?
I have heard from some parents in my practice that they worry the vaccine may have unknown side effects for their children in the future. They are scared even when they got the vaccine themselves. Could it affect their child’s future fertility? Will it cause other developmental disorders?
Let me help set the record straight. Clinical trials found that the Pfizer vaccine was 100% effective in preventing symptomatic infections in those studied in the 12 to 15 year age group. Side effects of the vaccine were similar to those seen in adults and were mostly mild, including sore arms, muscle aches and fatigue. There is absolutely no evidence that any vaccine, including the Pfizer COVID vaccine, can cause any developmental abnormalities in our children.
In addition, the concept of children not being impacted by COVID-19 is simply not true. As of May 13, more than 3.9 million U.S. children had been infected with COVID-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, including 16,000 hospitalizations and 308 deaths.
There is also a rare but very serious condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can affect kids’ hearts and many other organs, and has been associated with mild or even asymptomatic COVID-19 infections. What is the best way to prevent this potentially fatal complication? Prevent the disease in the first place.
The main reasons that children 12 to 15 years old should get the shot are to protect the kids themselves, as well as to build herd immunity in the wider population. This may also help protect those who are immunocompromised who may be more vulnerable to getting COVID-19 even after getting vaccinated. In addition, vaccinations in this age group will help protect those who are not yet able to get vaccinated, like those younger than 12.
My daughter Skyler is actually looking forward to getting the vaccine so that life with her friends can start returning to normal. Her teacher told her that if all the kids in her class got the shot, they could all take their masks off in class. How is that for motivation?
The more people around us who get the shot, the fewer opportunities the virus will have to multiply. This is the way we can all move forward and start doing more of the things we have missed doing during the pandemic.
After much discourse, my wife has agreed to follow the science. Skyler has her appointment scheduled for next week.
“All my friends are getting it,” she told us.
This is the one time in adolescence when I hear that “everyone is doing it” is actually a good thing.
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