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Q: Should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children as young as 5 years old, and many families are wondering if their child should get the shot.

The important thing to know is that kids can get really sick from COVID-19, and the vaccine can protect them. According to the CDC, children are just as likely to get COVID-19 as adults. If they do get infected, they can get very sick and have health complications -- including “long COVID,” just like adults. They can also spread COVID-19 to other people they are in close contact with. Children with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk from COVID-19.

For the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved, it was tested in clinical trials involving thousands of children. These trials did not find any serious safety issues, with serious health events after vaccination documented as “rare”.

Some parents are concerned about reports of heart issues after vaccination. It is true that cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart) have been reported in some teens after vaccination. However, these cases are rare; one study of teen males found that the risk was 54 cases out of one million.

It is important to note that this age group is more at risk for developing Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome or MISC because of a COVID-19 infection. As of October 2021, there have been over 5,000 cases of MISC and nearly 40% of those affected were children six to eleven years old.

It is also important to know that kids cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The vaccines do not include any live virus, so it is not possible for them to become infected by receiving the vaccine.

Finally, there is also no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.

Children can have the same side effects as adults from the COVID vaccine. So, if your child does get vaccinated, they may have pain or swelling in the arm where they got the shot. Other symptoms may include fatigue, headache, body aches, chills, fever, or nausea. These symptoms are a positive sign that the immune system is responding to the vaccine. You can treat symptoms with Tylenol, and they should go away in a few days.

The bottom line is, if your child is eligible to receive the vaccine, please get them vaccinated. The benefits of receiving the vaccine far outweigh the risks of contracting the virus and the unknown severity of illness, and even long-term illness, it may cause.

Michael J. Shea , MD

Critical Care Medicine

Maui Memorial Medical Center
221 Mahalani Street
Wailuku, HI 96793