Should your Kid get the Covid-19 Vaccine? GR Doc Answers Parent’s Questions
Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine was recently authorized for kids ages 12-15, and has already been available for kids 16 and up.
As younger age groups are able to get the vaccine, more parents are asking questions like:
- Is the Covid vaccine safe for my kid?
- Does my kid even need the vaccine if they’ve already had Covid?
- When will this become available to my kids younger than 12?
We talked to a local doctor to get the scoop on the vaccine and see what health professionals are saying about Pfizer’s covid inoculation option.
Q&A with Metro Health Doctor, Caitlin Mlynarek, DO
Dr. Mlynarek is a pediatrician with Metro Health’s Hudsonville Pediatrics office and is also the mom of young kids.
As the vaccine has rolled out, Dr. Mlynarek has closely watched for information on the safety of this particular vaccine. Not only does she have young kids, but she was also pregnant when the vaccine was first available to her.
Like many of us, she had a lot riding on whether to get the vaccine for herself, and whether or not she would vaccinate her young kids when the time comes.
Ultimately, Dr. Mlynarek got the vaccine during her third trimester of pregnancy, and anticipates getting her children vaccinated when it becomes available to their age groups.
“It’s been a worldwide effort to find a vaccine that’s safe and effective,” says Mlynarek. “Everyone was using their medical expertise and science on multiple continents. It’s been pretty amazing to see it come through!”
Does the Pfizer Vaccine Have FDA Approval?
“The Pfizer vaccine was approved early last week. Both the CDC and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) agree with this use in this population after reviewing the research and data,” says Dr. Mlynarek.
In the United States, drugs need approval from the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration. This is the national authority that ensures the drugs doctors prescribe to us are safe and effective.
When a drug receives FDA approval, it means that the drug’s effects have been reviewed and determined to provide benefits that outweigh the known or potential risks for the intended recipients. The CDER (Center for Drug Evaluation and Research) is the entity that reviews drugs for FDA approval.
Did the Vax get Rushed? I don’t Want my kid to be a Guinea Pig.
A: No, the covid vaccine was not carelessly slapped together.
So this was a major concern of mine. We all know that vaccines take years to develop, and the Covid vaccine was ready within just a year. But what Dr. Mlynarek had to say makes sense:
The Covid-19 vaccine was able to be produced quickly because of the incredible amount of resources put into the effort:
1 – This vaccine technology and the science behind it has existed for some time, according to Dr. Mlynarek. We are simply now in a time in history when vaccines can be more quickly, and safely, developed.
2 – We had an entire global community working to create this vaccine, and not just a small group of scientists and researchers working on a niche virus. The smartest science minds in the world came together for this. More minds at work means faster results.
3 – Because of the worldwide awareness of this virus, researchers were able to run clinical trials on tens of thousands of volunteers in a short period of time, when normally it takes a lot longer to gather volunteers for medical trials.
“We’re pulling together very intelligent scientists and researchers to make sure this is safe,” she says.
I liken it to building a house. You can build it with 5 skilled people, or 50 skilled people. In the end, the house will be built, but when 50 of the most skilled people from around the world help, it gets built a lot faster, and better.
How do I Know that this Vaccine is Safe for my Child?
A: Extensive data has proven the safety of this vaccine.
While jokes float around about people growing a third eye after getting a covid vaccine, safety truly is a concern for many parents. When you are making medical decisions for someone else, you take your job very seriously.
And Dr. Mlynarek says that if there are serious issues with vaccines, they’re obvious very early on. The Pfizer vaccine would have shown major side effects by now if it wasn’t safe.
“Serious side effects that would cause long-term health problems are extremely unlikely following COVID-19 vaccination and historically, if side effects are going to happen, they generally happen within six weeks of receiving a dose,” shares Dr. Mlynarek.
“The clinical trials have been going on for some time, and there hasn’t been any unsafe data on the Pfizer vaccine.”
She used the rotavirus vaccine as an example. Back in the 90’s the vaccine was pulled shortly after becoming available, because they learned that it could cause intestinal issues in babies. And it was not offered again until they had determined the vaccine was completely safe.
The Pfizer covid vaccine has been out long enough that we would have seen potential issues arise already.
“The safety data is there,” says Dr. Mlynarek. “All the data has shown (this vaccine) to be safe and effective for adults and teenagers.
I Hear People on Social Media say “Do Your own Research.” What is the Best way for a Parent to do That?
A: Talk to your own local, trusted professionals.
The internet is full of “experts.”
When I was considering whether to even get the vaccine for myself (let alone my kids!), I turned to real life, medically educated people I knew and trusted.
My cousin is a nurse who worked a very large covid ward in her local hospital. My mother-in-law is a retired RN. Our family friend is a pediatrician. Another is a pharmacist.
They didn’t all blindly trust the vaccine the moment it came out. They did their own research and considered what they understood about vaccines and science. In the end, they determined that this was a safe vaccine.
Dr. Mlynarek urges parents to do the same.
“Talk to your pediatrician,” she says. “A lot of families have a good relationship with their pediatrician and getting their opinion can be very valuable.”
Trusted Sources on the COVID-19 Vaccine:
- The CDC (Centers for Disease Control)
- American Academy of Pediatrics (Dr. Mlynarek says they have a lot of good info on vaccine use with children.)
- Your Local Health Department – Kent County Health Department, State of Michigan Health Department
- Your child’s pediatrician
- Trusted medical professionals you know personally.
Our Family Already had COVID so we Have Natural Immunity Now. Do we Still Need to get the Vaccine?
This was my million dollar question for Dr. Mlynarek, because my 12 year old had Covid in the fall of 2020, and she is terrified of getting shots. I was hoping I could avoid the vaccine for her
“Children and adolescents should get the vaccine regardless of if they’ve had Covid or not,” advises Dr. Mlynarek.
“With how good the data looks, and how safe and effective it is, I would strongly recommend my own family members and patients getting (the vaccine) after having the natural infection.”
Dr. Mlynarek says that we still don’t know how long we have antibodies in our system after getting covid so it just makes sense to get this extra protection.
There are also many covid variants out there. We get the flu shot every year, even if we’ve had the flu, because the shot can protect you against variants you haven’t had.
“With several illnesses that we do know about, getting booster doses is recommended,” she says. Covid may be just like that.
When can my Kids Under age 12 Expect to get the Vaccine?
A: It’s looking like the end of 2021/early 2022, but hopefully sooner.
If you were hoping your younger kids could get vaccinated before school resumes in the fall, you’ll want to temper your expectations.
While Dr. Mlynarek thinks it would be great to have it available sooner, there is just a lot of work that goes into testing a vaccine at the young child level.
Currently clinical trials are underway for children down to 6 months of age and there are many questions that need to be answered.
“With the younger populations, is the dose we are using for an adult the same we use for an infant? Do we need to change the schedule at all?” – these are some of the things Dr. Mlynarek says scientists have to determine.
Will This Interfere With my Kid’s Traditional Vaccination Schedule?
A: No. Keep your child’s current vaccination schedule.
For adults, the CDC recommends that you do not get any other vaccinations either 2 weeks before or after your Covid vaccination. This is normally easy enough for adults, as we don’t get a lot of vaccinations, but kids do receive lots of vaccinations.
Thankfully, the AAP is now recommending that kids keep their current vaccination schedule. Their covid vaccination doesn’t have to interrupt anything.
“They recommend co-administrating vaccines alongside the covid vaccine. We want to encourage them to also get their regular vaccines but also the covid vaccine,” says Dr. Mlynarek.
Still on the Fence about Giving your Kid the Covid Vaccine?
I have a friend who isn’t a big cheerleader for the vaccine, but who takes a diplomatic stance when it comes to her kids.
While she doesn’t feel strongly that her kids need this vaccine, she trusts that it’s safe, and also knows that it’s one step closer to her kids getting back to their regular childhood. She’s vaccinating them so they don’t have to go through quarantines for close contacts in the fall. So they can play sports more freely. So they can travel.
Dr. Mlynarek agrees.
“The FDA approval to include adolescents 12-16 allows for us to better protect a younger population from Covid, and brings us closer to a better sense of normalcy.
“The mental, emotional, and social aspects that the last year has brought on (kids), if we can get them back to school without masks, not needing Covid testing to play sports…
“It’s hopefully one step closer to ending this pandemic, which I think is exciting.
“It’s that normalcy which everyone is so desperately seeking.”
Where your 12-15 Year old Can get a Covid Vaccine in West Michigan
Area schools are starting to offer clinics for eligible students who wish to get the Covid vaccine, and kids aged 12-15 can also register to receive their vaccine at pharmacies across West Michigan and at Metro Health.
Metro Health patients can easily set up an appointment through MyChart.
Not a Metro Health patient? You can still get your vaccine at any of their participating locations! Simply call 616.252.6161 to set up an appointment.