Rosemary Olivero, M.D., pediatric infectious disease specialist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, answers frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine and children.
Updated January 13, 2022
The updated guidance and authorizations for vaccines and boosters in children are very timely. Omicron has caused astronomical caseloads of COVID-19. COVID-19 remains a significant health issue for school-aged children. Again and again, vaccination has proven to be the safest way to protect children from COVID-19.
The only vaccine currently authorized for children is the Pfizer vaccine. This vaccine is available for children aged 5 years and older. The dose authorized is different between children aged 5-11 years and those 12 years of age and older. Children aged 5-11 years receive one-third of the dose given to those 12 years of age of older.
The data from Pfizer as well as real-world experience show very rare serious adverse effects other than occasional high fever. The overall side effect profile is very reassuring for this vaccine in children, especially those aged 5-11 years. We continue to diligently monitor for safety signals as the vaccine is provided to more children.
The most common side effects are pain at the site of the injection, fatigue, sore muscles and occasional mild fever. These side effects are expected with ANY vaccine.
Children 5-11 years of age require 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to complete their initial series, similar to children 12 years of age and older. For children 5-11 years of age with select immune deficiencies, a 3rd dose is required to achieve adequate immunity from the vaccines.
Children who have already had COVID-19 will have some immunity for a period of time, but we are not sure for how long. We also know that the newest variant of concern, Omicron, can easily cause infection in a child or adult who previously had COVID-19, and vaccination has been shown to be the most effective way to prevent severe disease from Omicron infection. Once your child is out of isolation and has recovered from COVID-19, it is safe for them to be vaccinated. Being vaccinated after having COVID-19 provides optimal immunity against future infections.
The annual flu shot is currently recommended for everyone – children and adults. It is important to get both your COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine this year, and it is safe to receive both at the same time.
It is very difficult to differentiate between cold, flu or COVID-19. All can have mild symptoms or present like cold or flu. If you have any concerns about a respiratory illness in your child, we strongly recommending having your child tested for COVID-19.
Vaccinating children is an essential step that we need to take as a community and as a population. This will help reduce the likelihood that novel variants will continue to emerge and will also reduce overall spread of COVID-19 in the community.
Yes, your child should be vaccinated even if they are completely healthy. Negative impacts from an acute COVID-19 infection as well as suffering from long COVID-19 infection can be worse than side effects of the vaccine.
These children may have additional risk of becoming ill from COVID-19 and should certainly be vaccinated.
The definite cause of MIS-C is still unknown. Vaccination against COVID-19 is very effective at preventing MIS-C from occurring in a child or teenager. The risk of developing MIS-C is astronomically much higher after having a natural COVID-19 infection. Therefore, we recommend that approximately 3 months after a child has recovered from MIS-C (and they are no longer receiving steroid therapy) they should be vaccinated or receive their boosters against COVID-19.
At this point in time, boosters for this age group are not yet approved. This may occur in the future as further research is done and the pandemic continues to evolve.
Boosters have now been approved for this age group and are strongly recommended. If it has been 5 months or more since your child completed their initial COVID-19 vaccine series, we strongly encourage them to receive their booster.
For more information, visit: Vaccine Information Center | COVID-19 | Spectrum Health
Schedule an appointment in MyChart or call the Spectrum Health COVID-19 Vaccine call center from 8am to 8pm.
Please note: Appointments may be limited. Find other convenient and local vaccine locations at vaccines.gov