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What will a COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids mean? An expert weighs in

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Posted at 3:06 PM, Oct 27, 2021

(WXYZ) — I am excited that the FDA panel recommended Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 5 to 11. As I’ve said before, I have two sons in this age group and I’m looking forward to when they can get vaccinated.

Now, as far as side effects, a study of over 2,000 children aged 5 to 11 found that kids experienced the same sort of side effects as adults. So symptoms like fatigue, fever, chills, headache, a sore arm, and redness where the shot was given. And just like adults, the symptoms appeared in the first 24 hours and went away shortly afterward.

Now, another side-effect parents ask about concerns myocarditis – that’s the fancy term for inflammation of the heart muscle. The good news is that myocarditis did not show up in Pfizer’s study. But that could be because it’s so rare, it might not get detected until many more kids are vaccinated. Having said that, we may not see myocarditis because kid-size doses are smaller - 10 micrograms - not the 30 micrograms that people aged 12 and older get.

As for long-term effects, we are not expecting to find any. Hundreds of millions of people across the globe have gotten COVID-19 vaccines. Side-effects show up in the first few weeks, and not months or years later. That’s the pattern we typically see with childhood vaccinations.

Just like all of our COVID vaccines, they are not 100% effective. Pfizer’s study found its kid-size dose was 90% effective against symptomatic disease. Which is pretty good. However, the CDC still recommends that students wear masks in schools, regardless if they’re vaccinated or not. And I agree, masks are a great preventative measure that we’ll want to keep in place especially as we move into winter - when everyone spends more time indoors. Not to mention, it’ll also take time for kids to get fully vaccinated so it’s best we keep the masks on for now.

As for social activities, parents will have to weigh risks and benefits. For instance, if the virus is running rampant in the surrounding community, then the risk is higher. If your child has underlying health issues like obesity or diabetes, again, it may not be worth the risk. If parents are unsure, I encourage them to speak with their pediatrician or family doctor.