In line with the Department of Health’s (DOH) ongoing efforts to expand the coverage of COVID-19 vaccination, the vaccination rollout of the pediatric population aged 5-11 years old has begun last February 4, 2022. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine brand that was able to secure an EUA (emergency use authorization) approval from the Food and Drug Administration for this age group. Read on to better understand why children should get vaccinated for COVID-19.
What is the impact of COVID-19 among children?
The Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) noted that COVID-19 cases (110,609 cases) and hospitalization (1,916 confirmed hospitalization) among children 5 to 11 years old contributed 3.49% and 0.06% of total COVID-19 cases (3.1 million cases) in the Philippines from March 2020 to January 2022.
Children are as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as adults and can
- Get very sick from COVID-19
- Have both short and long-term health complications from COVID-19
- Spread COVID-19 to others, including at home and school
Children who get infected with COVID-19 can also develop serious complications like Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) – a condition where different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. In the US, it was noted that the incidence of MIS-C is highest in the 5-11 age group among other age groups with an incidence of 1 MIS-C case in approximately 3,200 COVID-19 cases. Children with underlying medical conditions are more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with children without underlying medical conditions. Apart from potential adverse health outcomes, other negative impacts of COVID-19 among children, their caregivers, and households, include educational disruptions, decreased socialization, and mental health issues (ex. anxiety).
What are the likely benefits of vaccinating children against COVID-19?
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect children ages 5 years and older from getting COVID-19, including symptomatic and severe COVID-19. Vaccinating children can help protect family members, including siblings who are not eligible for vaccination and family members who may be at risk of getting very sick if they are infected. Vaccination of the said age group also has the potential to enable reopening of schools, thereby allowing more mobility, minimizing disruption of education of school-age children, and improving the psychosocial well-being of the children.
Based on short term data, the most common adverse effects following vaccination are local and systemic reactions like pain at injection site, fever and body pain among others which are mostly mild, tolerable and self-limiting resolving after a few days. Serious health events after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. In the US, cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) have been reported after Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination of children ages 12-17 years. These reactions are rare; in one study, the risk of myocarditis after the 2nd dose of Pfizer-BioNTech in the week following vaccination was around 54 cases per million doses administered to males ages 12-17 years. In general, adolescents ages 12 through 17 years have a higher risk for myocarditis than children ages 5 through 11 years. During clinical trials, no cases of myocarditis occurred in children ages 5 through 11 years who received the COVID-19 vaccine. Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems. The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks.
Sources: Health Technology Assessment, Department of Health (DOH); CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention