In May, the FDA approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-17. Experts expect that a COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12 could be available by September or October 2021. Whether or not to vaccinate children is a decision parents need to determine for their family.
Rushim Bains, M.D., an internal medicine specialist at the NCH Medical Group Kildeer location, is a father and can relate to the concerns of parents. He believes in evidence-based medicine and shares his thoughts with us.
Many parents are worried that the vaccine has not been available long enough for experts to say it’s safe for children. Dr. Bains explains why that shouldn’t be a concern. “Trials have already shown that the current vaccines are safe and effective for both children and adults. These trials are sufficiently ‘powered,’ meaning that they have enrolled enough people to be deemed statistically relevant,” explained Dr. Bains. “While more research is always being done, we have enough data to support the widespread use of vaccines against COVID for ages 12 and up safely.”
He explained further, “Typically, when a trend of bad outcomes is observed it is called a ‘safety signal.’ When we see signs of such a signal, either the trial is stopped or widespread use of a vaccine is halted. An example would be the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — when rare cases of blood clots were noted — and that vaccine’s use was paused for further study before finally being given the green light. This demonstrates that our system of monitoring vaccine safety is working, with the proper checks in place to put things on hold when a signal is witnessed.”
Some parents are hesitant to vaccinate their teenage daughters because they have heard a myth that the COVID vaccines could cause infertility in the future. This is untrue. This myth claims that mRNA vaccines target a protein called syncytin-1, which is needed for placental formation and successful pregnancies. These claims are unfounded; no available mRNA vaccines target the syncytin-1 protein. “There is no evidence to suggest that infertility is a concern with any of the currently approved COVID vaccines,” adds Dr. Bains.
“The decision for children aged 12-17 to get vaccinated should be made between parent and child, taking into consideration the benefits of vaccination versus the risks of not receiving the vaccine,” said Dr. Bains. Keeping in mind benefits beyond physical health, an adverse effect of the pandemic has been the huge mental health toll it has taken on our children and teens. Getting your child or teen vaccinated can bring them closer to enjoying the activities they miss and that are important for their socialization and mental health.
Although fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 than adults, children can get seriously sick from COVID-19, and can spread COVID-19. This brings to light requirements for kids that remain unvaccinated and attend camps this summer and in person school this fall. “Currently, COVID-19 vaccination is not required for attendance in Illinois schools. However, past precedent has been that schools require evidence of vaccination against infectious diseases such as mumps, measles or pertussis for children to enroll in school. This may be a possibility for COVID-19 in the future,” Dr. Bains suggests. It’s best for unvaccinated children to remain masked while indoors and continue social distancing.
“While it is true that children have much better outcomes than other populations when infected with COVID-19, they can still potentially become seriously ill, as well as pass COVID-19 to other, more susceptible individuals – like immunocompromised family members. The currently approved vaccines are highly effective at reducing infection as well as infection transmission rates, and this is an important consideration.”
Children are experiencing the same side effects of the vaccine that adults can face. The most common reported side effects in children are arm soreness, redness at the injection site, fatigue, fever, chills, nausea, headache and body aches. All subside in a relatively short time.
Dr. Bains is not hesitant to share that his oldest child will be vaccinated against COVID-19 when he turns 12 in August.
Dr. Bains is accepting new patients in his Kildeer practice (21481 N. Rand Road, Kildeer). For an appointment or more information call (847) 618-9696.
Through June 25, NCH is currently offering vaccines for children 12-17 with parental consent at our Vaccination Clinic, 3060 Salt Creek Lane, Arlington Heights. No appointment is necessary M-F 9 am – 7 pm. For more information or to get a vaccine after June 25, call 847-618-0242.