We’re vaccinating our kids. Here’s why you should too.
As a pediatrician, a pediatric infectious disease doctor, and a pediatric palliative care doctor practicing in a large, urban, academic children’s hospital, we have been up close and personal with COVID-19 over the last 15 months. Although children are less likely to die from COVID-19 than adults, they can and do have serious and prolonged illnesses related to COVID-19 infection. We have personally cared for children with severe and devastating respiratory, neurologic and cardiac side effects of COVID-19 whose lives and families are forever changed.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently expanded the emergency use authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15-years-old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that everyone ages 12 years and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination.
We have received many questions from our patients, families and friends about whether this age group should be vaccinated. The short answer is yes – in fact, we are vaccinating our own children. This is why:
1. It’s effective. Since late last year, 2,260 adolescents age 12 to 15 were enrolled in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. According to Pfizer, there were zero cases of COVID-19 in the vaccine recipients and 18 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo recipients. This type of study is considered the “gold standard” of clinical research and it yielded a statistically significant difference that proves the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in this age group.
2. It’s safe. In the aforementioned clinical trial, the side effects experienced by adolescents who received the vaccine were similar to those previously documented in adult studies, and included injection site pain, fatigue, fevers, chills, muscle aches, and/or headaches. Some worry that these recommendations are being made too hastily. In the history of vaccine science, it is very rare that any serious side effect emerged beyond two months after a vaccine was administered. The COVID-19 vaccine trial in adolescents is well past the two-month mark. Additionally, almost 160 million doses of vaccine have safely been administered to people age 16 and older since 2020. Hence, we are assured that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any safety concerns.
3. It’s about protecting others. The risk that children will have severe morbidity or mortality from COVID-19 is low, but children can serve as vectors to transmit the infection to others. The more that the virus circulates, the more chances there are for new, potentially more difficult to control variants to surface. Hence, the best way to achieve herd immunity is to get the vaccine now.
Vaccinating our children is an expression of love to our family, friends and community. As doctors, but more importantly as mothers, we urge you to vaccinate your sons and daughters.
To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines or to schedule a free vaccine at Texas Children’s Hospital, visit texaschildrens.org/covidvaccine.
Jill Ann Jarrell MD MPH is a pediatric palliative care doctor
Katherine Y. King MD PhD is a pediatric infectious disease physician scientist.
Mitra Misra MD MEd is an academic general pediatrician
All three are practicing pediatricians at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas.