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Should My Child Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Should My Child Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

What Parents Should Know About the Vaccine

The recent announcement that the Pfizer mRNA COVID vaccine has been approved for use in children twelve and up was welcomed news for pediatricians and many parents. This news has caused many parents to come to us for advice on whether their children should get the COVID vaccine.

The short answer is yes! We encourage vaccination for several reasons. One is that although most children do fine, some become very ill from COVID-19. Over 450 children have died from the infection in the United States, and thousands have been hospitalized. The second reason is that children can spread the disease to others. We will reach herd immunity faster if children and young adults are vaccinated. It is particularly important for children who have frequent contact with adults who have risk factors for severe disease to be vaccinated. The third reason is school. Our children have been harmed most greatly by COVID in their education. The remote learning and frequent absences due to quarantine have hurt our children academically and psychologically. This virus is not going away, and this school year will be much more fulfilling and successful if our children are vaccinated and thus immune to disease. COVID is currently running through the schools like wildfire.

Because the vaccine seems too good to be true, there are many who have questions or concerns or who misunderstand it. As the most scrutinized medical intervention in world history and with over 5 billion doses given worldwide, there are many watch dogs ensuring its safety, but also many others spreading misinformation. Even one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, was a skeptic. He was famously against the smallpox vaccine until his son died of smallpox and he studied the science and realized he made a regretful and irreversible error. We appreciate the trust you put in us as your children’s pediatricians and hope that we can help by providing clear and reassuring information. This article will focus on the Pfizer mRNA vaccine since it is the only one currently approved for children.

Here’s how the mRNA vaccines work. Your cells make proteins by your DNA sending messenger RNA (mRNA) to your ribosomes, which are the protein factories of your cells. Your ribosomes then send the proteins out of your cell to build stuff. The mRNA vaccine is basically a fat-soluble cocoon containing mRNA that codes for a spike protein found on the outside of COVID-19. When the vaccine is administered to your muscle, the cells suck it up and the ribosomes grab it and produce that protein, just like they produce all your body’s other proteins. But when this spike protein leaves your cell, your body notices that it’s a foreigner and your immune system attacks it. This activation of your immune system is why you may feel sore or flu-ish after vaccination. As your immune system develops an army against this spike protein, the little mRNA and the spike protein that were produced dissolve away, and all that is left is an army of cells and antibodies that are ready to fight. Because that spike protein is common to most strains of COVID-19, if your body is ever exposed to the virus that army will mobilize and fight it off so that you do not become infected. These vaccines are some of the most simple and effective vaccines ever and are based on technology that has been around for decades.

There is only one group of patients who should not get the COVID vaccine: those with a history of an allergic reaction to a COVID vaccine or to any component of the vaccine. Patients who are currently ill with COVID infection should wait until they are recovered to get vaccinated.

The most common side effects of the vaccine are pain, redness, or swelling of the arm, fever, chills, headache, body aches, fatigue or nausea. Some very rare side effects have been discovered, the most serious being temporary inflammation of the heart that has occured in a very small percentage of patients.

Many parents are concerned about the possibility of long-term side effects of vaccines. The short answer is there are none, but here's an excellent article on that topic:

https://www.uab.edu/news/healt...

Please see our other article "COVID Update and Vaccine Information" for answers to your other questions.

The Pfizer vaccine is available at the Angelina Cities and County Health Department and most locally pharmacies. Walgreens on Timberland has a fairly consistent supply. Please contact us if you have any other questions, and stay safe out there.

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