Three things this pharmacist wants you to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and your kids

Three things this pharmacist wants you to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and your kids

Summer is here! Kids are hanging out with friends, playing sports, and will be headed back to school this fall. But remember, unvaccinated people – even kids – should still wear masks, practice social distancing, and follow other proper safety guidelines as things start to return to normal.

While fewer kids have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, they can still contract COVID-19, get sick, and spread the virus to others. If you and your family plan to get out of the house, the best way to protect your family from COVID-19 and its variants is for your household to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can. For anyone age 12 and older, that’s now!

As a clinical pharmacist, I care for patients every day, but I used to be a teacher. I recognize that for those who are taking care of children, healthcare decisions take on a special importance. If you plan to send your children back to school, vaccination can prevent a COVID-19 infection over the summer or missed school days in the fall. For those ‘returning to normal,’ getting everyone age 12 and older in the household who is eligible for vaccination to take it can protect the entire family – vaccinating some family members provides protection for those who are too young to get the vaccine this summer.

It’s always best to seek out information from a trusted source when making important decisions about your family. That’s why I am sharing my take-away points with you today:

  1. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe

The COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials had thousands of volunteers. To date, the vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective for children age 12 and up. These studies are ongoing, and new information is shared, readily.

A common worry I hear is that the vaccine was created too quickly. But the development of this vaccine has been faster than vaccines in the past for a few reasons. Scientists didn’t have to start from scratch. They had already been working on the technology for this vaccine to help with other vaccines. There were many COVID-19 cases in the community during the trials, so it didn’t take long to see that vaccine working. It was clear that it was protecting people from getting sick with COVID-19.

Every study, every phase, and every trial was reviewed by the FDA and a safety board. They continue to monitor the vaccine – in fact, the CDC says COVID-19 vaccines will have the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. I used the V-Safe App, which is a symptom surveillance service, seeking information about bad reactions. Because I did experience after-effects, I entered that information in the app, and I was contacted by a representative from the CDC. She only talked to me about my symptoms – and didn’t require any personal information from me. She asked me to self-report to the CDC Vaccine Tracker program, VAERS. She was willing to report on my behalf. I did not feel pressured, in any way. It was good to know that someone was really following up.

  1. The vaccine is effective

Astoundingly, the vaccine was 100% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness in children 12- 16 during the clinical trials. A perfect score seems unbelievable, but no children who received the vaccine got sick with COVID-19.

  1. It’s worth it!

I totally get it. There is a lot of confusion, and it is hard to know what is right or wrong. It is important to recognize and investigate our fears. Concerns about after effects are reasonable, and there is a risk with every health care treatment, medication or procedure. My own friends are worried about endocarditis in older children, but we’ve also seen the drastic effects that COVID-19 can bring – so they are erring on the side of caution and getting their kids vaccinated. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine provides long-lasting protection for you and those that live in your home, and most people will have only mild after-effects – tiredness, headache, and one heck of a sore arm.

Talk to a healthcare provider to learn more about the vaccine, and find an appointment or learn about walk-in sites at Chicago.gov/COVIDvax.

Dr. Jewel Younge is a Clinical Assistant Professor at University of Illinois College of Pharmacy and practices at Wood Street Pharmacy, of the UI Health Ambulatory Care Pharmacies. She has 20 years of experience teaching, working with every age of learner –  from nursery rooms to University graduate halls and all levels in between. She is a member of the Chicagoland Vaccine Partnership’s Speakers Bureau and you can request her to answer vaccine questions at a community event by emailing community@chicagolandvp.org.

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