close up of child arm with bandage

Pediatrician: Vaccinate your child now against COVID

Viruses need hosts.

COVID-19 seeks hosts who have not been vaccinated, and children have been at risk. Now, the FDA has approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the CDC has recommended it for children ages 5 through 11 years.

During the pandemic, COVID-19 did not seem to affect children. That has rapidly changed. We have seen more cases and more severe cases of children with COVID. About 1.9 million children in the 5-11 age group have already had COVID-19. More than 8,000 children with COVID have been hospitalized in the United States.

Children with COVID-19 face many challenges. One infrequent complication is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, and it can affect several organs in the body. Children with MIS-C are typically in the 5 to 11 age group.

Treatment for COVID-19 is available for adults but not young children. Most treatments are only indicated for people 12 years old and older. Anti-viral therapy won’t be available for children. Remdesivir is only for adults.

All you can offer a child with COVID is supportive care. You can sit by their side and keep them hydrated. We don’t have anything we can give them.

The best way to reach herd immunity is through vaccination. Vaccinating gets us closer to herd immunity. Vaccination also prevents the virus from mutating to new variants.

We are all trying to go back to a new normal, and that includes keeping up with other scheduled immunizations. Parents should get back into the pediatrician’s office and get their children vaccinated. The last thing we need right now is an outbreak of the measles.

It’s extremely important to get the flu vaccine this year. Last year, we wore masks and practiced good hygiene to avoid catching COVID-19. Because of these practices, the flu virus has been dormant. We don’t know what it will be like this year.

Pediatricians usually catch children with fall and winter birthdays in time to get a flu shot during routine visits. We can miss the ones with spring or summer birthdays, so we encourage parents to bring them in for a flu shot or to get a flu shot for children 7 years old and older at a pharmacy.

Children can get flu and COVID vaccinations the same day. Also, if an 11-year-old is getting a meningitis shot, he can get a COVID vaccination the same day. This is acceptable, and there’s no waiting period. Children who have already had COVID still need a COVID vaccine. I’ve heard patients say, “I just had COVID, so I’m going to wait three months before I get the vaccine.” Don’t wait. Do it now.

The side effects of a COVID vaccination shot are similar to older age groups. Pain, body aches, headache and fever are typical and usually resolve in 48 hours. The benefits outweigh the risks. Studies show that children didn’t have adverse effects to the vaccination.

Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, has been reported in older teenage boys and young adult men. This happens because our immune system reacts to a stimulus, such as a vaccination, but COVID itself can also cause heart muscle inflammation. Children who are 5- to 11-years old are not the age group getting myocarditis.

COVID 19 vaccination is under very intensive safety monitoring. It is safe. Get your child vaccinated, and get your vaccination, too. It’s safe, efficient, and it’s the only way out of this mess.

Don’t allow your child to become a host.

Dr. Manuela Murray

Dr. Manuela Murray is a pediatrician at UTMB Health Pediatric Primary Care, Bay Colony.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information