CHICAGO | June 22, 2022
Last weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months and up.
Since many parents will have questions about getting their young children vaccinated, the American Lung Association asked five medical experts to provide trusted information about COVID-19 vaccines for kids.
Why Should You Get Your Child Vaccinated?
"We are still in the middle of a COVID pandemic, and the virus is mutating into different variants, with the latest (omicron) being much more contagious than the original COVID virus. The virus is going to continue to be a part of our daily lives and is going to continue to mutate. Children are getting sick or dying from COVID, and we need to keep them protected from current and future COVID strains." – Afif El-Hasan, M.D., Pediatrician, Kaiser Permanente, California
“Vaccination is the best way to prevent severe outcomes (including hospitalization) with COVID-19. Until now, children ages 6 months to 4 years have not had the benefit of access to a vaccine. Though most people know that risk for severe COVID-19 increases with age, and that most young children often seem to do fine with a mild illness when infected with COVID-19, at the same time, many do not realize that COVID-19 infection still presents significant risk to young children: it has been one of the most common reasons for hospital admission for young children throughout the COVID pandemic and is significantly higher than a typical flu season, for example. It is very exciting for pediatric specialists, like myself, and parents of young children, like myself, to know that we can finally offer the protection of a vaccine to our young children. It feels like we have been waiting a very long time for this, and we have—so this is exciting news.” – Christy Sadreameli, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"Children get COVID and the complications that come along with it—the vaccine is the best protection we have against it. The vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization, MIS-C (a systemic inflammatory reaction in children that follows a COVID infection) and the incidence of long COVID. In the pediatric world, we have been eagerly awaiting the approval of this layer of protection for some of our youngest patients." - Traci Gonzales, APRN, PNP-C, AE-C, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Texas Children’s Hospital
“Parents should get their young children vaccinated because although this age group comprises 3% of COVID-19 cases, they are the age group that has been increasing in hospitalizations and death rate over the last few months. We have also lost nearly 500 children in this age group to this pandemic. Not one more child should be lost. The other reason to get this age group vaccinated is because children have served as viral vectors of transmission of COVID-19 and vaccinating them means protecting their grandparents and all vulnerable members of the family. Vaccinating the children means protecting them and protecting the entire family.” – Juanita Mora, M.D., Allergist/Immunologist at Chicago Allergy Center
“It’s a lot easier for an adult to self-isolate if they have COVID than a child. When you think about it, a young child with symptoms from COVID can have a significant impact on the whole family, even if children are less likely to die from COVID than adults. And we’re still learning about the long-term effects of people getting COVID which applies to children as well. It is important to keep them safe and one of the best ways to do that right now is with the vaccine.” – Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Environmental Health Sciences and the Director of the Pediatric Pulmonary Division at Columbia University Irving Medical Center
What Can Parents Expect After They Get Their Children (6mo-4yrs) Vaccinated?
“Parents should expect side effects with the vaccine, and this means that the immune system is working normally and creating immunity to the COVID virus. Sometimes the subsequent vaccines will cause more side effects than the first vaccine. Everyone’s body functions differently, so a lack of side effects does not mean that the vaccine is not working.” – Dr. El-Hasan
“Children may have some side effects from their vaccine, but they are mild and short-lived. The most common side effects are pain at the injection site, just like with most vaccines. Young kids in the trial were sometimes fussy or sleepy after their vaccine, and some children ages 2-5 reported a headache. Fever may also occur. What is great is that the young kids in the vaccine trials tended to have fewer side effects than older kids, and we saw this same trend in school age kids (5-11 years old), who have tended to have fewer side effects compared with adults. We can also expect parents and healthcare professionals to have peace of mind knowing that their child has the benefit of vaccination.” - Dr. Sadreameli
“Studies have shown that the vaccine is well tolerated in young children, and that’s the only reason they are now becoming available for this particular age group. Typical side effects are the same as with other vaccines including redness, itching and pain at the injection site and sometimes fever.” –. Dr. Lovinsky-Desir
“After the vaccine, your child may experience some fatigue, achiness or fever. Some children may also notice redness or discomfort at the injection site. These symptoms seem to be fairly mild overall. If a parent has questions regarding any symptoms following the vaccine, I encourage them to reach out to their healthcare provider.” – Gonzales
The Lung Association recommends all Americans stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, including all recommended boosters when eligible. In addition, the public should continue to rigorously follow CDC community level prevention recommendations to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.
In October 2021, the American Lung Association hosted a roundtable consisting of medical professionals, community members, school administrators, representatives from vaccine developers, communications experts and policy officials to discuss strategies for increasing vaccination rates for youth. Perspectives gained from the roundtable continue to guide the work of the Lung Association.
Thank you to Viatris, who provided funding for the COVID-19 Vaccine in Kids Roundtable. You can access the summary report here.
The Lung Association focuses on educating the public with the most up to date science-based COVID-19 information, investing in research through our COVID-19 Action Initiative and supporting people who have long COVID through our online support community. More information about COVID-19 can be found at Lung.org/Vaccine-Kids or the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.