Courtesy photo

With the early November Food & Drug Administration emergency-use authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for pediatric use — in ages 5 to 11 — many parents are weighing a number of factors before deciding if the vaccine is right for their children.

In fact, recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation roughly breaks parental sentiment about the vaccine into thirds. The first third seems to be clamoring to get their children on any and all wait lists for inoculation. The second third said they want to wait a few months to see what happens. The third group reports having no plans to immunize their elementary-aged kiddos.

This study is one Dr. Carrie Jenner is well aware of both in her role as a pediatrician and medical director of pediatrics for Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, as well as in her position as board president for the Pierce County Immunization Coalition.

The University Place-based medical provider sat down with South Sound to bust some of the myths surrounding the vaccine.

Myth: The vaccine was too rushed; there’s no way the science is solid.

Jenner: First of all, this is probably the most studied vaccine in human history. We have a lot of data and millions and millions of doses given. And the great news is, there’s been no huge safety concerns besides just the normal arm soreness. … A lot of people say, “Well, I want to see, like, a five- to 10-year study — what if there’s something that comes five years down the road, and there’s this really weird side effect?” Well, any serious side effect of any of the vaccines that have ever been made, it shows up in the first two or three months after giving it.

Now, how we got it made faster is that everybody was working together. Usually, pharmaceutical companies are working in secret trying to get their vaccine out and they would do phase one, they take a break, do phase two. (But) they were doing these steps (for the COVID vaccine) at the same time in parallel, because this was such a dire emergency with the COVID pandemic. Also, there was a lot of money from governments that were able to help this technology come along. And the mRNA technology has actually been around for over 20 years.

Myth: My child won’t be able to handle the COVID vaccine because it is formulated for adults.

Jenner: Parents should be happy that it is actually one-third of the 12-and-up dose. So, anybody 12 and up gets the 30-microgram dose, and that pediatric 5- to 11-year-old dose is just 10 micrograms. The awesome thing is kids’ immune systems are great and the kids had just as good responses — it was (almost) 91 percent effective. … The three most common side effects are pain where you get the shot, fatigue or tiredness, and then headache. But those can just be managed by resting (and) Tylenol.

Myth: The COVID vaccine is causing heart problems in children.

Jenner: Over the months that we’ve (been giving the COVID vaccine to 12 and over), there was a slight increase in this temporary (condition) — it’s called myocarditis — which is basically a temporary inflammation of the heart muscle. There’s also pericarditis — which the heart is wrapped in kind of like a membrane and that’s a little inflamed — it is basically a temporary inflammation of the heart and the lining. You can get that after just having the flu or having a cold. So, pericarditis and myocarditis, they’re known complications from having any virus (and occurrence) is pretty low. … But the good news is most of the cases (in older children and adults) show that if they had this temporary inflammation, the usual treatment is rest.

Myth: The messenger DNA (mRNA) in the COVID vaccine can alter my child’s DNA.

Jenner: We hear that a lot. The answer is no. … The mRNA, it can only get into what’s called the cytoplasm — that’s the jelly-like stuff in the cell — it cannot get into the nucleus. (Our) DNA only lives inside the nucleus of the cell, the mRNA can’t even get in there. And another kind of cool thing is that what is injected into your arm, it only goes into the arm muscles, your body breaks it down within days. By seven to 10 days (following injection) what’s injected is gone. … Your cells start eating it up as soon as it gets in there — it’s basically just delivering a little recipe.

Myth: If my child gets the COVID vaccination, they may end up being sterile in adulthood.

Jenner: There’s been a lot of misinformation around that. … But the great news is there’s really no mechanism to actually affect fertility (in the) ovaries or testicles.

Myth: My kid already had COVID, they have immunity and don’t need to get vaccinated.

Jenner: You do get some natural immunity after having COVID. But we just don’t know how long that lasts. … So, we think that even if you had COVID, we still recommend getting vaccinated, the vaccine gives longer-lasting protection.

Myth: Instead of getting my child vaccinated, I can just them tested on a regular basis — they have a lower risk of getting it anyway.

Jenner: Well, that’s taking a chance. And yes, many, many kids have pretty mild COVID. But one-third of kids who get hospitalized with COVID are absolutely healthy kids.

Contact your child’s health care professional to decide what is best for them.

Recommended for you