Many myths exist about kids and the COVID-19 vaccine
This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5-11. We are extremely confident in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine and encourage parents to vaccinate their eligible children as soon as possible.
We also know some parents still have lingering questions about COVID-19 vaccines. I'd like to take this time to respond to some common myths parents may have heard.
Myth: Vaccines were rushed and may not be safe for children.
Fact: The vaccines are safe for children and clinical trial data showed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine to be safe and effective for ages 5 and up. While the process of approval was accelerated, vaccines for coronaviruses have been studied for decades. This vaccine is a product of those studies.
Myth: Young people don't need to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Kids don't get COVID-19 and if they do, it is mild.
Fact: Children can and are contracting COVID-19. Millions of children have been diagnosed with the Delta variant and more children are being hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infection than was seen earlier in the pandemic.
Additionally, a COVID-19-related condition called the pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome is life-threatening and we have seen multiple cases here in Chicago and thousands across the nation.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine will impact fertility.
Fact: There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes a loss of fertility. Many people have become pregnant after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, including some who got vaccinated during COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.
Myth: My child already had COVID-19, so they don't need to get the vaccine.
Fact: Everyone who is eligible should be vaccinated, regardless of age or whether they already had COVID-19. That's because experts do not yet know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. It's also possible, although rare, that someone could be infected with COVID-19 again, even after recovering. Talk to your doctor or pediatrician if you're unsure about how long you or your child should wait to get vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19.
Myth: My child can't get a COVID-19 vaccine before or after getting another vaccine.
Fact: Our pediatricians are encouraging parents to consider getting their child the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same visit. There is no need to wait between vaccinations. Data has shown the side effects of vaccines -- as well as the way our bodies develop antibodies for each vaccine -- are generally the same when administered alone or simultaneously.
Myth: My child could have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine.
Fact: Among the millions of individuals, including children, given the vaccine, allergic reactions have been incredibly low. Those who administer vaccines make you stay for 15 minutes after the shot to make sure your child is fine.
Reactions post-vaccine include arm pain, low fever, fatigue and muscle aches, nothing lasting for more than a day or two.
Myth: The current COVID-19 vaccines don't protect against the COVID-19 variants.
Fact: In the U.S., the Delta variant is now the most common COVID-19 variant. It is nearly twice as contagious as earlier variants and might cause more severe illness. While research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are slightly less effective against the variants, the vaccines still appear to provide protection against severe COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines will alter my child's DNA.
Fact: The way in which the vaccine was made does not target DNA for adults or children, so it cannot affect or change a person's DNA.
The first COVID-19 vaccines to reach the market were messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines work by instructing cells in the body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. Injecting mRNA into your body will not interact or do anything to the DNA of your cells. Human cells break down and get rid of the mRNA soon after they have finished using the instructions.
Myth: My child will get COVID-19 from getting the vaccine.
Fact: There is no active virus within the vaccine making it impossible for your child to contract the disease from the shot. The COVID-19 vaccine will protect your child, not infect them.
Myth: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine means my child can stop wearing my mask and taking coronavirus precautions.
Fact: The CDC continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and makes recommendations for wearing face masks, both for those who are fully vaccinated as well as those who are not fully vaccinated.
• Children's health is a continuing series. Dr. Frank Belmonte is chief medical officer of Advocate Children's Hospital.