Children and the Covid Vaccine: What Parents Need to Know

Many parents are confused about whether they need to time Covid shots with other childhood vaccinations because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its guidance. Previously, the agency said children and adults should wait two weeks before or after a Covid vaccine to receive any other inoculation. The C.D.C. said the initial restriction was a precautionary measure in the early days of vaccine distribution, but now says Covid vaccines and other vaccines can be given without regard to timing.

“Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, after getting vaccinated and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines,” the C.D.C. says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement supporting the change, particularly for children and adolescents who are due for other childhood vaccinations or who have fallen behind the recommended schedule. The C.D.C. notes that if multiple vaccines are administered at a single visit, the injections may be given in different parts of the body.

Fevers were slightly more common in 12- to 15-year-olds compared to adults, but in general, the side effects reported in children have been similar to those seen in older people. The F.D.A. stated that the most commonly reported side effects in the adolescent clinical trial participants were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain. Side effects typically lasted one to three days. Although pain at the injection site was common after both shots, more adolescents reported side effects after the second dose than after the first dose. In general, younger people tend to have a more powerful immune response than older people because they have more robust immune systems. It’s possible that children may experience more side effects than their parents did from the same shot.

Children should not get the Pfizer vaccine if they have a history of severe allergic reaction to any ingredient (such as polyethylene glycol) in the vaccine. Allergies to the vaccine ingredients are rare. You can find a full list of the ingredients here. The vaccine does not contain eggs, preservatives or latex. If you have doubts or aren’t sure, talk to your pediatrician before getting your child vaccinated.

If your child has severe allergies to anything else (medications, foods, bees), plan to remain at the vaccination site after the injection for 30 minutes, instead of the 15 minutes that the general population is recommended to wait.

You should not give your child a pain reliever before getting vaccinated. And don’t give it right after the shot to ward off side effects either. Wait to see if symptoms develop and the child expresses discomfort before giving acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Studies show that many parents make the mistake of giving children over-the-counter pain relievers right before childhood vaccinations in hopes of reducing side effects. But blunting side effects by pre-medicating can also blunt the effectiveness of the vaccine. If your child develops a headache, body aches or other side effects requiring pain relief, it’s fine to give them the recommended dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever.

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