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The Top Five Questions Parents Are Asking About the COVID-19 Vaccine

…and answers from Nemours and Main Line Health

As of April 19, 2021, every person in the United States age 16 and up is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. A vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds may be approved soon. But many parents still have questions about getting their children vaccinated.

 

To help ease parents’ concerns, experts from Nemours Children’s Health System and Main Line Health answered questions that parents are asking most frequently about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

 

Why should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Your child should get the COVID vaccine because the vaccines are safe and effective. Once your child gets fully vaccinated, they can enjoy more social interaction with friends who have also been fully vaccinated. They can gather indoors without wearing a mask or socially distancing. They can gather or do activities outdoors without wearing a mask, unless it’s really crowded. Life can begin feeling normal again. 

 

Dr. Hazel Guinto, System Chair of Pediatrics, Main Line Health

Site Chief, Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Nemours Children’s Health System at Bryn Mawr Hospital

 

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

YES! The COVID-19 vaccine that has emergency use authorization for children is the Pfizer vaccine (for those age 16 and older). Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, have reviewed the safety data from the vaccine clinical trials and determined these vaccines to be very safe. These  groups are made up of non-partisan scientific experts, including many pediatricians. Pfizer has already submitted to the FDA information about safety and effectiveness from their original trial for children as young as 12.

 

Dr. Craig Shapiro, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist

Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

 

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause fertility issues?

We don’t yet know of the long-term impact on fertility. But based on all available evidence we don’t expect fertility to be affected. That’s because of how the vaccines work. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines direct cells to make a spike protein found on the coronavirus, so your germ-fighting immune system can learn to identify it. Different vaccines have different ways of giving these directions. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine use something called messenger RNA, or mRNA; the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a different method to achieve a similar result. Both methods have been used successfully and safely before. (The J&J method, for instance, was used to protect against Ebola.) 

 

What is most important to understand is that the vaccines can prevent infection. They can prevent serious infection that can damage the body’s organs longer term and cause chronic health problems. In this way, to help keep a mom healthy, vaccines provide the most benefit in helping future fertility. 

 

Dr. Antonette Dulay, Obstetrician

Main Line Health

 

How can I trust a vaccine that was developed so quickly?

The rapid development has not compromised safety or effectiveness of the vaccine. There were good reasons the vaccines were developed quickly. The effort included an important partnership between the federal government and the vaccine companies to support the vaccine development process. Also, research related to these vaccines began prior to the pandemic. Additionally, most vaccine side effects occur within the first two months after vaccination and so far the vaccines are extremely safe. We have vaccinated millions of people with these vaccines since December of 2020 and the CDC continues to watch for side effects of the vaccine. The CDC will notify the public of any concerns.  

 

It’s important to remember that the risk of getting COVID-19 disease and developing complications from the disease are a much greater concern than the side effects of the vaccine. 

 

Dr. Craig Shapiro, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist

Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

 

Does it hurt to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is no worse than getting any other immunization. Most people do report soreness at the injection site in the day or two after getting the vaccine, but there is minimal pain from the shot itself. I always tell patients that it hurts worse to stub your toe than to get a vaccine.

 

Dr. Tara Berman, Physician in Charge

Nemours duPont Pediatrics, Philadelphia

 

Bonus Question: If the FDA paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, how can we be sure that the other vaccines won’t have the same kind of side effects? What’s the harm in waiting to vaccinate my child until the vaccines are fully approved by the FDA, not just authorized?

The pause on — and review of — the Johnson & Johnson vaccine highlights how the CDC’s system to watch closely for vaccine side effects is working well. To put it in perspective, the side effect that led to this pause is extremely rare (15 cases out of 7 million doses of vaccine) and occurs almost exclusively in young women. Your child is much more likely to get COVID-19 than to see serious side effects from the vaccine. 

 

We cannot end this pandemic and get children back to school safely without vaccination. Most vaccine side effects are seen within the first two months of vaccination, and more doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been given without serious side effects reported. The CDC and FDA have restarted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (with a warning for young women about the risk of developing rare and serious blood clots). At this time, we believe these vaccines will be fully approved by the FDA in the coming year, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

 

Dr. Craig Shapiro, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist

Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

 

Have more questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Check out Nemours recent webinar “Myths and Misunderstandings about the COVID-19 Vaccine” or contact your child’s primary care doctor.

 

 

Nemours is a leading nonprofit pediatric health system serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. www.nemours.org

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