Vaccination against COVID-19 is increasing across the world, with those most at risk typically targeted for earlier doses. However, vaccination has begun to spread to other age groups, including, in some countries, children.
With people beginning to emerge out of lockdown, experts continue to call for higher rates of vaccination in a bid to bring about a speedy end to the pandemic.
“COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They have been used under the most intensive safety monitoring in the US, including studies in adolescents,” Pediatrics specialist at the United Arab Emirates-based Bareen International Hospital Dr. Anuradha Ajesh said.
“Children need two doses of the vaccine, second shot three weeks after the first shot,” she added.
While fewer children have been infected with COVID-19, there is still a risk of infection, getting ill and spreading the virus to others who might be at a higher risk, according to the US’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC also recommends that everyone aged 12 or older should get the vaccine.
Managing vaccine side effects
The most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are redness, pain and swelling in and around the area on the arm where the vaccine dose was injected, Dr. Ajesh notes. Other side effects include headaches, chills, nausea, fatigue, muscle ache and, in some cases, a fever.
“Parents can give non-aspirin pain relievers if child has pain after the vaccination. It is not recommended to give pain relievers before vaccination to prevent side effects,” she said.
Is vaccination necessary for children?
Children have so far not been a priority for COVID-19 vaccination. Several studies have already demonstrated that symptoms and risks associated with the virus lower the younger the age of the person infected.
Vaccine advisers in the United Kingdom currently recommend that countries delay vaccines for most young people under 16, but this is not the case everywhere.
Several countries – including the United States – have approved vaccination for children, with others planning to follow suit as soon as supplies allow them to. With many areas in the world struggling to get enough vaccine doses, vaccinating children could feel like a privilege.
Some children suffer from long COVID-19, a situation where coronavirus symptoms can linger for months on end after even a mild bout of the virus, online news media Nature reported last week adding that this alone gives pediatricians enough reason to urge vaccination as soon as possible.
“I spent the pandemic taking care of kids in a children’s hospital,” Adam Ratner, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at New York University, told Nature.
“We saw not as many as in the adult side, but plenty of children who were quite ill,” he added.
While more research is being conducted on how vaccines will effect children, experts have previously noted that the most effective way to bring an end to the pandemic will be the widespread adoption of effective COVID-19 vaccines. For true efficacy, this will likely have to include children in the future.
“Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic. People who are fully vaccinated can resume activities that they did prior to the pandemic. Learn more about what you and your child or teen can do when you have been fully vaccinated. Children 12 years and older are able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine,” a statement on the CDC’s website read.