As the country slowly transitions back into some sense of normalcy, vacation plans, cookouts and beach days are filling up our calendars. But if there’s one activity that should be at the very top of your summer to-do list, it’s getting a COVID-19 vaccine for you and your family.
“Everyone ages 12 and older must get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, especially as this new Delta variant spreads,” says Matthew Ferguson, MD, a doctor with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners Primary Care. “The vaccine is 90-95% effective in preventing transmission of COVID-19, including its variants. It’s also nearly 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
The two-dose Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for kids ages 12-18. Anyone 18 and older can receive the two-dose Moderna or one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Why young people need the COVID-19 vaccine
Although kids may be at a lower risk for serious complications from COVID-19, it doesn’t mean they should skip the vaccine.
“Kids can still get seriously ill from COVID-19. It’s rare, but some children have developed a deadly multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) after contracting the virus,” Dr. Ferguson explains. “And the more the virus spreads in the community, the higher chance there is for bad outcomes in kids.”
Vaccinating children can also help protect other people in the community and at home, including teachers, classmates and family members who may have high-risk conditions.
“Adults who are vaccinated have a lower chance of getting COVID-19, but it’s still not a zero percent chance,” Dr. Ferguson adds. “Vaccinating kids and young adults helps protect our community.”
For young adults, getting vaccinated is the easiest way to avoid missing school, work or social gatherings because of COVID-19, Dr. Ferguson says. He also reminds young adults that if COVID-19 spreads widely again, mask mandates, social distancing and restrictions in restaurants and businesses may return.
Vaccination will be especially important for those heading back to college in the fall.
“We saw huge outbreaks on college campuses last year. With the Delta strain being more contagious and dangerous, it’s going to prey on young people who are not vaccinated,” Dr. Ferguson says.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for kids?
With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fast-tracking the COVID-19 vaccines, some people have concerns that the science was “rushed” and the shots may not be safe.
That couldn’t be further from the truth, Dr. Ferguson says.
“These vaccines went through the same rigorous three-phase clinical trials that every other medication or vaccine has to go through,” he says. “They’ve been available for more than seven months now and we’ve seen great results both in clinical trials and in the public.”
Like most adults, kids do experience some side effects after getting the vaccine. It’s common to feel arm soreness and cold and flu symptoms such as body aches and headaches. In most cases, these symptoms are mild and subside after a day or two.
Are there any risks related to the COVID-19 vaccine?
Dr. Ferguson acknowledges that there is a rare risk of heart inflammation (myocarditis) with the vaccine. This side effect seems to target males ages 15-24. In almost all cases, the heart inflammation is mild. It goes away after rest and treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
“The risk is extremely low and on par with what we see in other vaccines,” he says. “Young people are more likely to develop myocarditis from the COVID-19 virus than they are from the vaccine.”
According to a review from the American Heart Association, a teen has a 1 in 62,000 chance of developing myocarditis after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. By comparison, a college athlete has a 1 in 50 chance of developing it after catching COVID-19.
News headlines across the country have also highlighted the risk of blood clots for younger adult women (ages 18-50) who receive the vaccine. However, like myocarditis, Dr. Ferguson underlines that this side effect is extremely rare. The risk for serious health problems from the COVID-19 virus, including blood clots, is far higher than any risk from the vaccine.
If you have any concerns about the specific vaccine risks for your child, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician.
What if my child is too young for the vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines are currently only available for use in kids 12 and older. If you have a child younger than 12, Dr. Ferguson says to stick to the preventive measures that work: Wear masks when out in public, avoid large groups and socially distance when possible.
“I have three kids ages 8, 6 and 3, and we make sure they always wear masks when we go out, whether it’s to a restaurant, school or a birthday party,” he adds.
Dr. Ferguson also encourages parents to keep an eye on the news for updates about vaccine approval for younger kids. Clinical trials are actively testing the vaccine in younger children. More information will be available later this year once researchers complete those trials.
Now is the time to get vaccinated
With summer in full swing and fall school schedules fast approaching, Dr. Ferguson encourages families, kids and young adults to get their vaccines as soon as possible.
And if you’re hoping to complete vaccines before school starts, the clock is ticking. Most kids and young adults will have to wait three to four weeks between vaccine doses. Plus, you’re not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the last dose.
“Just like hurricane season, don’t wait until September to prepare. Now is when you want to get your plan together,” Dr. Ferguson says.
Vaccine eligibility and scheduling
Roper St. Francis Healthcare is currently scheduling vaccine appointments for all patients ages 12 and up at our five Express Care locations in James Island, Summerville, West Ashley and North Charleston. We offer the two-dose Pfizer vaccine by appointment. To schedule, call (843) 727-DOCS or make an appointment online.