Q&A: Kids and the COVID-19 vaccine

Adult and child, both wearing cloth masks outdoors. Adult is hugging child.

As COVID-19 vaccines become available, parents and caregivers have a lot of questions about how best to keep their kids healthy and well. Below, our experts answer some frequently asked questions.

When will vaccines be available for children?

It’s not clear. So far, vaccines are available in the U.S. only for people who are 16 and older. Vaccines are first tested in adults to be sure they are safe and effective. Then they are tested in older children before clinical trials start with younger children.

Both Moderna and Pfizer are testing their vaccines in children as young as 12. Moderna hopes to have a vaccine approved for children 12 and older by summer 2021, CEO Stephane Bancel said in January 2021.

Get OHSU’s most up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccines here.

Moderna expects to start clinical trials in younger children soon, but Bancel said the company doesn’t expect to have results until 2022.

Meanwhile, vaccinating adults will help protect children, too. As more people are vaccinated, the coronavirus will become less able to spread. Children are also at much lower risk of serious illness from the coronavirus.

I’ve heard that parents of children who are medically fragile can get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner. Is that true?

In Oregon, paid and unpaid caregivers (including parents or foster parents) of medically fragile children are part of Phase 1A, group 3. Learn more about eligibility, then find out more about COVID-19 vaccine information and appointments.

Can I choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?

Read more about vaccination considerations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Yes, you may choose to be vaccinated. Though it’s not required, you may want to talk with your pregnancy provider about:

  • Your risk of being exposed to the coronavirus
  • The higher risk of serious illness for people who get COVID-19 while pregnant
  • The higher risk of premature birth or other pregnancy complications for people who get COVID-19 while pregnant
  • Whether you have any other medical condition that could put you at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19
  • Information about vaccines in people who aren’t pregnant
  • The lack of information about COVID-19 vaccines in people who are pregnant

Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people are not more likely to test positive, but are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. Pregnant people with COVID-19 may be at higher risk for problems in pregnancy, such as preterm birth. It is important to consider these risks when comparing with some of the unknowns about the vaccine and pregnancy.

Can I choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

Yes, you may choose to be vaccinated. Though it’s not required, you may want to talk with your health care provider. Here are some points to consider:

  • Breastfeeding people were not part of clinical trials. There is no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in people who are breastfeeding, in breast milk or in breastfeeding infants.
  • The CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that vaccination be offered to people who are breastfeeding under the same guidelines as for people who are not.
  • The CDC says that mRNA vaccines like those developed by Pfizer and Moderna are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants.
  • The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) says it is unlikely that mRNA would be present in milk. If it is present in milk, it is likely the child would digest it without any effects on them.
  • The ABM says parents’ antibodies to COVID-19 may be present in milk. If this happens, they may protect the breastfeeding child.
  • If a breastfeeding parent is vaccinated is it not recommended that they wean or “pump and dump” milk.

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children?

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) has symptoms that are similar to symptoms of Kawasaki disease and Toxic Shock Syndrome, but is not the same. MIS-C is thought to be related to COVID-19. Learn more about MIS-C symptoms and prevention.

How do I answer my child’s questions about COVID-19?

During stressful times, children – no matter their age – want to know three basic things:

  1. Am I safe?
  2. Are my parents, or the people caring for me, safe?
  3. How will this situation affect my daily life?

Start by recognizing and managing your own anxiety, and talk with your child about what you know. Read more about how to do this, including what kinds of questions to ask and how you can help empower your child.

 

 

 

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