Snohomish Health District
Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush their teeth. The grandparents who make it to the soccer game when it’s cold and wet outside, because the kids love the sport and it keeps them active.
We do a lot to keep our kids healthy.
And the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as five is a game-changer for keeping them healthy right now.
Some parents eagerly awaited a vaccine for kids. Others are hesitant or opposed to vaccinating their children. One thing we’re on the same page about: The health and safety of our kids is what matters. We’re confident that vegetables, toothbrushing and physical activity are good, important things. But can we be confident in this vaccine?
There are a lot of reasons to answer “yes.” Before going over some of them, it’s important to stress that specific questions really should be talked over with a professional medical provider. If your child has a pediatrician, that’s your best resource. We trust doctors when our children have ear infections, high fevers, broken bones or myriad other health concerns. We should trust them to answer questions about vaccination, too.
Here are a few things to consider:
• COVID can and does impact children. You may have heard that COVID doesn’t make children very ill, suggesting vaccination isn’t worth it because they’ll be fine if they get sick. While most children with COVID will recover, it is possible for them to become severely ill. We also still are learning about the long-term effects of COVID. Children can end up with persistent symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and/or shortness of breath. You might hear this called “long COVID.” Children can bring home the virus, too, and potentially infect others who are older or have underlying conditions.
• The vaccine has been shown to be safe. Trials and monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines have been extensive. For teens and adults, the vaccines have been widely available for months. Adverse events after vaccination continue to be extremely rare. In trials for children ages 5-11, out of more than 3,000 participants, no serious side effects have been reported. Post-marketing monitoring of the vaccine in children is ongoing with a focus on safety. Common minor side effects include feeling tired and having a sore arm and muscle aches. The Pfizer vaccine, which is available for ages 5 and older, does not contain the actual COVID virus, and it also does not contain any human cells (fetal or otherwise), preservatives, latex, animal by-products or egg products.
• The trials demonstrated that the vaccine is 91% effective at preventing COVID in children 5-11. That’s a very effective vaccine. No vaccine offers a 100% guarantee of preventing illness, but vaccinated people who become ill with COVID are much less likely to have serious complications compared to those who are unvaccinated. Hospitals consistently report that the vast majority of COVID patients in critical care are unvaccinated.
• Children are vulnerable to this disease right now. Although otherwise healthy children don’t tend to get as sick from COVID as older adults or people with underlying conditions, they’re a particularly vulnerable group because so many children are still not immune. Over 70% of Snohomish County adults have completed the initial COVID vaccine series. As of December 4, about 22% of children between 5 and 11 in the county had received theirs. That’s an impressive number for only a few weeks of availability. We need to keep that momentum until most of our kids are protected. Increased vaccination coverage means reduced outbreaks and quarantines in settings such as schools or child care, as well as a greater sense of safety when traveling or gathering.
Because vaccine doses are only recently available for children, there has been a surge in demand. It may take time to get an appointment. That can be frustrating, but please stick with it and book your child’s spot when you are able. You can find COVID vaccine information at www.snohd.org/covidvaccine and vaccinatewa.org/kids.
As the end of the year approaches, it’s also a good time to make sure your children are up to date on other routine vaccinations. These include immunizations that protect against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis, pertussis (whooping cough), and more. Many diseases are prevented by vaccinations that are free for children. If you are concerned about an administration or office visit fee, there are options to reduce or waive that cost so money is not a barrier to keeping your kids healthy. Contact your child’s healthcare provider with questions, or find immunization resources at www.snohd.org/immunizations.
The Public Health Essentials! blog highlights the work of the Snohomish Health District and shares health-related information and tips.