Widespread vaccination for COVID-19 plays a critical role in protecting the population from COVID-19 and COVID related complications. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone aged 5 and older get the COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against COVID-19. Bookings for the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11yrs will commence in government-led vaccination centres, similar to previous registration and bookings for the roll out of adult vaccination. This is expected to commence end of December.
Dr Arti Jaiswal is one of our Children’s doctors based in our Children’s clinic with nearly 20 years of paediatric experience. Dr Arti has been seeing an increase in discussion amongst parents regarding the Pfizer vaccine in children and we would like to share some of the frequently asked questions with you.
Should I consider getting my child vaccinated against COVID-19?
YES!!! 3000 children participated in the clinical trial, and no significant effects were seen. In the United States (US) now, over two million children have had their first COVID-19 vaccine, and serious side effects have yet to be reported.
If children don’t frequently get severely ill from COVID, why do they need the vaccine?
We know that vaccines are great for preventing severe disease and death, but it does not completely eradicate disease or prevent transmission. We have to remember that even if kids do not get very sick, that they can carry asymptomatic COVID and continue the spread to those that are at a higher risk of contracting serious illness. Therefore, if we get children vaccinated, they protect not only themselves but the community as a whole.
Are there specific concerns for children getting the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine?
There are mostly mild to moderate side effects reported, namely fever, fatigue, muscle aches, pain at the injection site and joint ache. There are some cases of lymph node swelling and localised skin reaction. There is a rare instance of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to the vaccine, therefore children and adults are monitored for 30 minutes after the vaccination is given. There are fears of the risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) with the COVID vaccine in those above 12 years old, but it is a very rare side effect that most do recover without complications. The risk of myocarditis with COVID infection are much higher. If you have any concerns please discuss them with your child’s doctor.
Are there any differences in the dosing of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for younger children, older children and adults?
The dosage is 1/3 the dose of those above the age of 12 years old. Teens and adults receive 2x 30-microgram doses and children under 12 receive 2x 10-microgram doses.
There is a small group of children who are not eligible, mainly children who are immunocompromised. Please discuss with your child’s doctor if you have any concerns.
How do I prepare my child for the vaccine?
Always tell your child that they are getting a vaccine. Acknowledge that it may hurt for just 1-2 seconds, but that you will be there to comfort them. Also, this is a good opportunity to discuss how we can take care of our community. The vaccine not only protects ourselves, but it protects the more vulnerable members of the community who perhaps can’t have the vaccine.
Lastly, while COVID-19 is usually not severe for children, that is not a reason to not vaccinate. In the US, there were 700 deaths from COVID/MIS-C in children, and thirty percent of those children had no underlying medical conditions. In 2021, with the rise of the Delta variant affecting more children, COVID is the eighth leading cause of death in children. Although, Polio is almost eradicated and measles is restricted to outbreaks, we still vaccinate the population. Why? Because Measles can be mild but very contagious and has severe complications. Polio can asymptomatically spread in adults but cause paralysis in children. That is why we vaccinate. We vaccinate to reduce complications, hospitalisations, and deaths, no matter how ‘few’. We can wait for more data, but then we have to also wait for new variants to emerge that will lead to more unnecessary complications. This is our time to take care of one another. I am a Paediatric doctor, but I am also a mum of three children who will also be getting their COVID-19 vaccines as soon as it is made available in Singapore.
Dr. Arti Jaiswal is a Board-certified Paediatrician with nearly 15 years of clinical paediatrics experience. She completed her medical degree at New York Medical College and did her Paediatric residency at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Dr Arti is based in our Children’s Clinic located in the Camden Medical Centre. Call 6887 4440 or book an appointment online.