Give Your Child a Shot at Staying Healthy with a COVID-19 Vaccine

By: Dr. Francis Darr, Chair of the UPHS – Marquette Department of Pediatrics

With the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for patients down to age 5, I have received many questions from parents who want to do the best thing for their child’s health and wellness – now and in the future. In some cases, parents have just recently become comfortable with the idea of getting vaccinated themselves and are now considering what’s best for their kids. This can certainly be overwhelming, to say the least.

First, as a pediatrician, I highly recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for all of my patients who are eligible. It is so important to know that children can be infected with COVID-19; can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread COVID-19 to others. Studies have clearly demonstrated that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe for those 5 years of age and over, and I trust the ever-growing body of clinical research that supports this.

Whitecoat aside, I’m a parent FIRST. I would never recommend anything to you that I would not do for my own children. In fact, I’m pleased to share that my own children have all been vaccinated against COVID-19. Knowing my children are protected gives me great peace of mind while we continue to fight this pandemic and especially as the COVID-19 Delta variant surges across the country.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the risks and benefits of vaccinating against COVID-19. Below, I address the most common questions I hear in both my personal and professional circles. My goal is to help debunk the myths you may be losing sleep over as you decide what is right for your child.

Dr. Francis Darr, Chair of the UPHS – Marquette Department of Pediatrics
  • Q: Is the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective for young recipients (ages 5 and older)?

A: Clinical trials have shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection in patients 5 years and older. Vaccinations help keep patients from spreading COVID-19 to others and can also help keep your child from getting seriously sick if they do get COVID-19. From a safety perspective, the vaccine has undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Because of this, vaccination has been endorsed by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  This list is far from complete but gives an idea of where the medical community stands.

  • Q: Is there a COVID-19 vaccine available for children younger than 5 years old?

A: Currently, 5 years old is the youngest age threshold for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. This age requirement could eventually be adjusted to include younger children as research and clinical trials continue.

  • Q: I’ve read that fertility could be impacted. Is that true?

A: There is absolutely no evidence of a link between vaccines and infertility. The CDC reports there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that the vaccine studies do not indicate any safety concerns for those who are pregnant or want to become pregnant. As a matter of fact, the Obstetricians that I know strongly recommend that their patients who are pregnant or want to become pregnant be vaccinated.

  • Q: Should I be concerned about my child experiencing heart inflammation?

A: There is an association of myocarditis and pericarditis in adolescents and young adults, particularly males, after COVID-19 vaccination. However, the cases of heart inflammation associated with vaccination have been short-lived and mild. Further, infection with COVID-19 is associated with a much higher risk of these conditions than vaccination. Some of the cases associated with infection with COVID-19 have caused profound heart failure and even death. This is part of what makes us conclude that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination greatly outweigh the known and potential risks. If you have concerns about this or any other questions, talk with your child’s pediatrician. We are happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.

  • Q: Can I wait for another vaccine that is authorized for young recipients?

A: In order to provide your child with protection, I would strongly recommend against waiting. We do not know when, or if, another vaccine will be authorized for pediatric patients.

  • Q: Where can I sign my child up to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

A: UP Health System – Marquette Family Medicine, UP Health System – Marquette Pediatrics, and UP Health System – Doctors Park in Escanaba will all be offering the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. Parents can reach out to their primary care provider to discuss and schedule a vaccine appointment. The Marquette County Health Department will also be offering the vaccine. You can also visit Vaccines.gov to find a vaccine location nearest you.

The bottom line is that the risk/benefit analysis of the COVID-19 vaccination is not even close. The benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks.

The best defense we have against COVID-19 is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Most of the patients we are seeing who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, and we don’t want you or your child to be next. In our continued fight against the pandemic, our greatest weapon is vaccination.

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