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COVID-19 vaccines for children 5+
Dr. Stephanie Whyte
Senior Medical Director and Pediatrician
Hello, everyone. My name is Dr. Stephanie Whyte. I am a senior clinical solutions medical director for CVS Health. I am a board certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. And I'm here today to answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and particularly for our pediatric patients age five years and older.
Which vaccine is being offered to kids 5-11?
The vaccine that has been authorized by the CDC is the Pfizer-BioNTech under the emergency use authorization for ages five to 11. It's a two-dose series and is given 21 days apart. And in comparison to the vaccine that we now use for ages 12 and above, it's a smaller dose.
Is the vaccine safe and effective?
The vaccine has been studied in more than 3,100 children ages five to 11 and found to have no major side effects. Those studies are ongoing. Clinical trials have shown that the vaccine is safe, well-tolerated, and builds a robust antibody response. The COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages five to 11.
What are the possible post vaccine side effects we can prep our kids for?
The most common side effects for kids post-vaccine are a sore arm, fatigue, and headache. They are usually mild and they'll resolve in a day or two. Side effects are a result of your body building or mounting a response to the vaccine.
Is myocarditis or pericarditis a risk?
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Pericarditis is an inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.
The CDC has and continues to monitor all cases of myocarditis and pericarditis. The known and potential benefits of a vaccine outweigh the known and potential risks of not receiving the vaccine, including myocarditis and pericarditis. If you have any concerns, you're encouraged to have a conversation with your pediatrician or primary care provider.
I’ve heard that children are less likely to get severe COVID-19 than vaccinated adults.
Why would they need this?
Children are less likely to get COVID-19 than vaccinated adults, but here are the facts. Children get infected by COVID-19. Children get sick from COVID-19. And children can spread COVID-19.
And in particular, for the five to 11 age group, they have been 1.9 million cases of COVID-19 to date. They have been 8,300 hospitalizations in the United States. One-third of those resulted in an ICU stay. And the hospitalization rate is three times higher for children of color than otherwise. So, the importance of vaccination for this population is that, one, we decrease the risk of them getting the infection, they're less likely to be hospitalized, and less likely to spread the disease.
What would you tell concerned parents?
So, as a mom, as a pediatrician, as a public health professional, I cannot stress the importance of social distancing, masking, and getting vaccinated. The spread of COVID-19 will only be stemmed if we do these things and play our part.
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Dr. Sree Chaguturu:
You may be wondering why a booster shot might be needed to protect you against the COVID-19 virus. As we have rolled out vaccines across the country, we have had the opportunity look at how well does the vaccine protect you against COVID-19. And there's really three ways that we look at protection. One is, is the COVID-19 vaccine effective against preventing you from getting an infection. The second is preventing you from getting hospitalized. And the third is, does it prevent you from dying from COVID-19?
And over time, what we have seen is that the COVID-19 vaccine continues to provide very high levels of protection against infection, hospitalizations, and death. However, in some populations we have seen some declines in vaccine effectiveness. We've seen some declines against infection in individuals who are over the age of 65. We've seen less decline , but a little bit of a decline in protection against hospitalizations in those individuals over the age of 65. And then there continues to be concerns about the levels of protection in those under the age of 65, but who are in high risk settings or have other medical conditions. And so by providing a booster shot, we have the opportunity to improve the efficacy of the vaccine in protecting individuals against infection, hospitalizations, and death.
DR. SREE CHAGUTURU :
As millions of individuals have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 and protected against COVID-19, we have learned more about how different individuals' immune systems respond to getting a COVID 19 vaccine. Now, there's two different ideas here. There's one is a booster shot, the other is a third dose. Let's start with third doses. Why would somebody need a third dose? The reason somebody would need it is because their immune system did not learn enough from the first two doses to protect someone sufficiently against SARS-CoV-2 infection. So that is very different than a booster shot. What we mean by a booster shot is that you had two shots, you had full protection, your immune system learned what it needed to learn to protect you against COVID-19, but over time, that protection has decreased, therefore requiring you an additional shot to get you back to that level of protection.
At this time, we understand that there are certain individuals who have not mounted sufficient response to COVID-19 vaccines, specifically those who are immunocompromised, which means a weakened immune system from taking medications, being on chemotherapy, having had cancer, being on hemodialysis. And so those individuals require additional doses to get them to the threshold of protection they need.
DR. SREE CHAGUTURU:
What's the difference between emergency use authorization and full approval, and is there a significant difference? The short answer is that there is not significant difference between the two. The vaccine development and clinical trial process for both are essentially the same. You can't receive either an approval or authorization without meeting rigorous scientific standards of safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality. And so again, the three categories are, is the vaccine safe? How effective is it? And how good is the process by which we make those vaccines, the quality of the manufacturing? Now, when you have full approval, what has happened is that there's submission of additional data around all of those characteristics of safety, efficacy, and manufacturing quality, but ultimately, it is the same information, but in greater quantity, that's being submitted for approval, compared to authorization. Authorizations can occur in a public health emergency, such as the one that we're in now with the pandemic, but we all are expecting, in the relatively near future, that all the COVID-19 vaccines will complete their process for getting full approval.
DR. SREE CHAGUTURU:
The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect us against the flu and the flu vaccine does not protect us against COVID-19. Therefore, as we enter the fall and winter season, it’s important to get both vaccines to protect you against both infections. You can get them at the same time, you don’t need to space them out, but getting both will protect you from both COVID-19 and the flu.
DR. SREE CHAGUTURU:
You may be wondering, why are fully vaccinated people contracting COVID-19? It's really important to recognize that this is an exceedingly rare event. There are very few people who have completed their COVID-19 vaccinations but are still getting infected. And in those rare cases that they are getting infected, they are protected against the most severe consequences of COVID-19 infection. And that is mainly hospitalizations or death. No vaccine is ever 100% effective in preventing infection, but what is reassuring in what we are seeing, across the millions of individuals who've been protected by COVID-19 vaccinations, both here in the United States and across the globe, is that it's protecting us against severe infection, illness, and death.
DR. SREE CHAGUTURU:
As we enter into the flu season, many people are asking, "Should I wait to get the flu vaccine until I finished my COVID-19 vaccine series? Or can I get them at the same time?"
The short answer is it does not matter about the timing between any type of vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines can be administered without regard to timing. You can get them on the same day and there will be no impact into the efficacy of the flu vaccine or the COVID-19 vaccine.
As we enter into the flu season, or as you're seeking your broader set of preventative services such as getting your shingles or measles (vaccines), if that's appropriate for you, you can get those vaccines at the same time to protect your health.
*CVS Health® is proud to be a Founding Partner of the Ad Council’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative.
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