How to talk to younger kids about getting COVID-19 vaccinations

A Maryland pediatrician had advice for families whose children have not yet been vaccinated.

About 19.7% of all Americans who received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within the last two weeks were children ages 12 to 15, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last updated Sunday. Only one other age group — 25 to 39 — had a higher share.

“I do find a lot of families are nervous, but preparation is extremely important,” said Dr. Christina M. Brown, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in White Marsh, Maryland.

Brown’s advice for parents includes making time to discuss with children what to expect.

“Speak to them in a matter of fact way,” Brown said. “So, for example, ‘We’re getting this shot today to be safe and healthy.’ Or, ‘This will hurt briefly but then it’ll be over.'”

Be clear about the potential for side effects. Being honest will help build and preserve trust.

Brown advises using statements, such as, “Some side effects to expect might be some soreness in the arm. You may feel some joint pains or fatigue. But, it usually only lasts a day or so and then you’re feeling well again.”

Brown said parents need to be comfortable and project confidence.

Preparing to do that, parents should know that the vaccine is safe and effective. The clinical trials conducted during high rates of infection over the winter showed the vaccine was 100% effective among the 12- to 15-year-old age group.

“They had antibody protection. Their side effects were minimal. Just some soreness of the arm. Maybe some aches and pain for a day or two. But, it is all worth it,” she said.

In talking with her patients’ families, Brown points out how everyone is part of the larger community. Decisions people make impact everyone around them.

“So, this is the best way to protect our loved ones and our neighbors and be part of the solution,” she said.

While children tend to have a lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19, Brown said it’s essential to have them vaccinated and protected.

“I’ve personally seen several patients of mine with MIS-C, that’s Multi System Inflammatory Syndrome in children, and that can be devastating. It can have severe effects on the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, even the brain,” Brown said.

“And many of those children do require hospitalizations and some have even died from this. And, that can be children who previously had been healthy.”

Detailing more of the potential problems associated with becoming infected with coronavirus, Brown said so-called “long haulers” can have months of ongoing fatigue, chest pain or anxiety after COVID-19. Infected children miss school and parents miss work. Ten-day periods of quarantine isolation might need to apply to multiple children over extended periods of time.

“It’s not just the severity of the illness, but it’s all of the other impacts you might not think about that can affect all of society,” Brown said.

Brown said more than a billion people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. She said vaccines save countless lives and getting COVID-19 shots is something to do as a community.

“I look forward to seeing the effects this will have on all of us — getting back into schools, back into sports and this will be amazing for the mental health of everyone,” Brown said.


More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


 

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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