Questions and answers about Covid-19 vaccination in children

Countries globally are considering the implementation of Covid-19 vaccination programmes for children. In this article for the Daily Mirror, Matt Roper and I answer some of the common questions from parents about Covid-19 vaccination for children. 

I’m worried about vaccinating my child – how safe is it?

Clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines in children aged 12-15 years in the UK and USA confirm that the vaccines are very safe. The rate of side effects in children in these studies was similar to that seen in young adults. As in young adults, most side effects were mild to moderate, such as a sore arm or tiredness.

Will children need two jabs like adults?

Children will need two doses of vaccine because this provides much better protection against serious illness than one dose of vaccine.

How likely is it they will suffer from side effects?

The most common side effects in children aged 12 to 15 years of age are pain at the injection site (> 90%), tiredness and headache (> 70%), muscle pains and chills (> 40%), joint pains and a high temperature (> 20%).

Is there anything I can do to offset any side effects?

Following the vaccination, paracetamol can help provide some relief from side effects such as muscle pain and headache. The side effects are generally transient and will resolve within a few days.

We’ve been told Covid doesn’t affect children as severely as adults, so why do we need to vaccinate them?

Although hospitalisation and death are rare in children following a Covid-19 infection, children can still sometimes have a prolonged illness and can also develop complications such as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome or other types of “Long-Covid”. Vaccination of children also helps to protect older members of the family, such as parents and grandparents, and teachers.

Is Long Covid a concern in relation to children, and will the vaccine help there?

Long Covid can occur in children. At present, we don’t yet know if vaccination will protect against Long Covid but we hope that if vaccines reduce the risk of symptomatic infection and serious illness, they will also reduce the risk of the long-term complications of Covid-19.

Will they need regular boosters later on?

Because the virus that causes Covid-19 is continually mutating, it is likely that booster doses of vaccine will be needed for both adults and children. For protection against current strains, it is possible that immunity may gradually weaken over time and this would be another reason for providing booster doses.

If they don’t get their jab, do we think they might be exposed to more risky variants in the future?

The vaccines do protect against serious illness even for the newer, more risker variants such as the delta variant. Children who are not vaccinated will be at higher risk of a serious illness if they are exposed to a new variant of the coronavirus in the future.

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