As of June 18, 2022 COVID vaccines have been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for children as young as six months old. This approval applies to both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
According to the State of Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, “Anyone over the age of 6 months should talk to their doctor about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.”
“Even if you have had COVID-19 in the past you should still receive the vaccine, as it provides important protection for you and your community. Immunocompromised individuals and expecting mothers are also recommended to receive the vaccine to avoid contracting a potentially severe case of infection, and to pass protective antibodies on to their children.”
Where to go
Not all pediatrician’s offices have a supply of COVID vaccines in the proper doses for children under five, so contact your child’s doctor and local pharmacies to check the availability of the vaccines.
For more information on the Covid-19 vaccines and where to get them locally, visit, www.washtenaw.org.
If a child has not yet started their vaccination series, parents may want to consider timing this with the beginning of school or heading into the winter months. For ages six months to four years, the second Pfizer-BioNTech dose is given four to eight weeks after the first, and the third does at least eight weeks after the second dose. For ages five to 18, there is a two-dose series three to eight weeks apart.
The dosing for Moderna vaccines is different from Pfizer, making the dosing times different as well. The two Moderna doses are given four to eight weeks apart for kids six months to 18 years old. Dr. Mills recommends waiting closer until the eight-week mark to receive the second and third doses for both vaccines, as this increases immunity and also decreases side effects.
Guidelines for when to receive booster shots vary based on whether your child receives the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, booster shots are recommended for kids five and older at least five months after their initial round of vaccinations are completed. Booster shots for those who completed the Moderna primary series are typically only reserved for those who are immunocompromised or have an underlying condition. If your child received the Moderna primary series and you are wondering about a booster or ways to maintain protection, Dr. R.W. Mills, Chief Medical Officer of Nationwide Children’s Toledo, suggests speaking with your child’s pediatrician.
Benefits of ongoing protection
Dr. Mills says the medical community is expecting continued surges around times of heavy travel, such as holidays, and during the fall and winter. “Once we are back to doing more things indoors and having people back together again in small areas, the level of transmission is expected to increase.”
“One of the misconceptions is that if you get infected you don’t need a vaccination, but that natural immunity only lasts three to four months. You are also more likely to get Long COVID if you have not been immunized,” Dr. Mills clarifies.
Dr. Mill explains that the effects of Long COVID are the same in kids as they are in adults, “We continue to learn about this as time goes on, a significant number of kids have Long COVID symptoms. They continue to have difficulty breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty with memory and brain fog.”
As with adults, underlying conditions for children do increase their risk of severe disease, including Long COVID. The high risk factors include obesity, heart disease, lung diseases, neurologic diseases. Dr. Mills says it is possible for kids without underlying conditions to also experience severe disease to the point of hospitalization.
Concerns about side effects
A common concern with the Covid vaccines has been the potential long and short-term side effects. If a baby experiences side effects, they typically show up in the same way side effects do for other childhood immunizations: irritability, sleepiness and maybe a fever. Older kids may experience the same effects as adults: chills, fatigue and fever.
Dr. Bagdasarian said, “Side effects that were reported in the clinical trials for children under 5 were minimal and aligned with side effects of older age groups. Most COVID-19 vaccine side effects are temporary and subside within a few days of receiving the dose. And the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the minor risks such as pain, swelling, or redness in the arm where the shot was given, fever, fatigue, chills and headaches.”
Myocarditis is a medical condition typically caused by viruses and causes inflammation of the heart. This condition was not something many parents thought much about for their kids until it became associated with COVID-19. While this has been a rare side effect of COVID-19 vaccines, kids are 50 times more likely to get myocarditis from a COVID infection than they are from the vaccine. While Myocarditis is rare, males aged 12-39 are at higher risk for this side effect with the Moderna vaccine. If this is a concern for parents, Dr. Mills encourages parents to ask about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Dr Bagdasarian stated, “As a physician and a parent, I believe that having questions about vaccines is a good thing. I know that all parents are trying to do what’s best for their kids and to understand the health decisions they are making on their behalf. But it’s incredibly important for parents to turn to credible resources for this information, like their child’s pediatrician or family doctor. I also recommend that parents explore www.ivaccinate.org for answers to common vaccine questions and resources for their child’s vaccine appointment.”
“The top recommendation I have (when preparing for summer travel during the pandemic) is to make sure your entire family is up to date on the COVID-19 vaccines before heading out for vacations.
Vaccines are your best protection against serious illnesses, not just COVID. In addition, continue to practice good hygiene such as frequent hand washing with soap and warm water and staying home when sick and follow testing protocols. All of these steps combined can help to stop the spread of the virus in the community that you plan to visit, as well as prevent the threat of bringing something deadly home,” said Dr. Bagdasarian.
I also encourage residents to make a COVID plan now.
- Make sure you have a supply of over-the-counter tests at home so you can test when needed.
- Keep a supply of well-fitting masks at home in case you need to use them if you test positive or if case rates increase in your community and you want to wear one in public.
- Learn if you would be eligible for available treatments if you did get COVID-19 by talking with your health care provider. Find out where to access those treatments so you are prepared.
To prepare for this upcoming school year, Dr. Bagdasarian stated, “I have to start by saying that teachers and school administrators around Michigan have worked incredibly hard these last few years to adapt to helping kids learn and grow during the pandemic. With a vaccine now authorized for some of our youngest residents, our hope is that we will see less cases and hospitalizations, so schools don’t see as many quarantines or missed school days.
In order to get there though, and to prepare for the school year, every K-12 Michigan student should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, if they haven’t already. Children ages 5 and up are also eligible for a booster dose at least five months after finishing their initial vaccine series.
Classroom outbreaks can also be minimalized by making sure that students are up to date on not only the COVID-19 vaccine series but all routine immunizations. By starting school as fully vaccinated, children can protect each other and their teachers from a variety of potentially serious diseases.”
“We’ve come so far in this pandemic. The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in unvaccinated individuals. The best thing residents can do is to get vaccinated as soon as they can. Like all other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine is intended to prevent severe illness and death, and ultimately protect our communities,” stated Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian.