Get COVID-19 Facts on Vaccine Safety and Efficacy
Great news for Californians and Americans across the country—children 6 months and older can now receive their COVID-19 vaccine and get protected. This highly anticipated announcement could not come at a better time, with summer underway and upcoming travel, get-togethers and celebrations, getting vaccinated is the sure way to protect the entire family.
As a doctor and community member, I hear concerns from parents looking for ways to protect themselves and their families all the time. Getting vaccinated is the best protection, and when coupled by handwashing and mask wearing, your chances are greatly reduced. There are many unknowns about how COVID-19 could affect health outcomes in the long-term, but what we do know is that the vaccine is safe, effective and the right choice to make. Now that it is available for this younger age group, everyone can be protected, which is a very good thing.
Parents have questions and concerns, and it is absolutely to be expected. Below are some common questions and my responses to help parents and caregivers get the information they need to make informed decisions.
COVID-19 vaccines are now available for children under 5. Are the vaccines safe for children this young?
COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be safe and effective for all age groups, including infants and toddlers 6 months and older. The COVID-19 vaccines go through rigorous testing before it goes through clinical trials. For children under five specifically, three phases of clinical trial were conducted with thousands of vaccinated young infants and toddlers from all ethnic groups enrolled.
Why should parents vaccinate their children under 5 when infants and toddlers are not dying from COVID and only experiencing minor symptoms?
COVID-19 has become one of the top five leading causes of death in children, and children who are vaccinated experience far less severe symptoms than children who aren’t vaccinated. The benefits of getting kids vaccinated definitely outweigh the risks of not getting vaccinated against COVID-19, providing them with protection from the worst outcomes of COVID-19 including hospitalization, long COVID, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and death. The vaccine is safe and effective, and not getting them vaccinated is a risk not worth taking.
Can you provide data on serious COVID-19 symptoms and even death for children under 5?
COVID-19 and its variants have dominated hospitalizations across the nation. During the Omicron surge, one in five children were either hospitalized or admitted into the ICU due to COVID. Studies show children were also five times more likely to be hospitalized if they contracted COVID. Today, COVID-19 has become one of the top five leading causes of death for children, and it is preventable.
How effective are the vaccines for children under 5 when they can still get COVID?
Getting your children vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best protection you can give them. The vaccines have been well-studied and are safe and effective, as demonstrated in the vaccine trials. Between the Pfizer and Moderna trials, which included over 11,000 infants and toddlers over the age of 6 months, the vaccines proved to be effective against COVID-19 and resulted in a strong antibody response in children who received the vaccine. Not vaccinating is just not worth the risk.
How are vaccines different for children under 5 years old?
The doses for young children are smaller amounts than the adult and adolescent doses. The Moderna vaccine is given in two doses four weeks apart. The Pfizer vaccine is offered in three doses, with the first two doses given three weeks apart and the third dose given 60 days later. Both vaccines underwent thorough clinical trials to ensure both regimens were both safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
What are the side effects of the vaccines for children under 5?
Mild to moderate side effects from the vaccines are normal, with common side effects including slight pain at the injection site, fatigue and a slight fever.
Everyone should be vaccinated against COVID-19, and with the last age group to now be approved, there is no time like the present. Visit MyTurn.ca.gov to schedule an appointment or call the hotline at 833-422-4255 to find the closest vaccine near you.
Parents can also talk to their child’s health care provider, or visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all Californians aged 6 months and older. For more information about COVID-19, including proper masking and Covid testing, visit covid19.ca.gov.
About the Author
Kimberly S.G. Chang, MD, MPH, is a Family Physician at Asian Health Services (AHS) in Oakland, California. In 2015, Dr. Chang completed the Commonwealth Fund Minority Health Policy Fellowship at Harvard, examining the role of federally qualified health centers in addressing human trafficking. Previously, Dr. Chang was the inaugural Clinic Director at AHS’ Frank Kiang Medical Center and provided care for many commercially sexually exploited children. She was elected as the Vice Speaker of the House on the Executive Board of Directors for the National Association of Community Health Centers in 2018 and appointed to the American Public Health Association Committee on Women’s Rights.