If your child is behind on vaccines because of a missed wellness checkup last year, it’s time to catch up. “During the shutdown, routine immunization rates among kids dropped nationwide,” says David Cennimo, MD, an infectious disease expert and assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “Now’s the time to make sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations, including the COVID vaccine, which is available to kids 12 years and older.” Moderna and Pfizer recently announced a vaccine may be ready for kids ages 5-12 by early fall.
Here’s what you need to know about keeping your child’s vaccines current:
COVID ISN’T THE ONLY DANGER
When routine immunization rates decline, other communicable illnesses such as measles and mumps, can make a comeback. For example, in 2019 local outbreaks of measles occurred in New Jersey due to kids not being vaccinated. If you’re not sure what routine shots your child needs, call your pediatrician’s office.
DON’T PUT OFF THE VACCINES
Previously, COVID vaccines were recommended to be administered alone to monitor potential side effects. But the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC now say it’s not necessary for kids to wait until after routine immunizations to get the COVID vaccine. In fact, most kids do well with no or minor side effects, such as a sore arm, fatigue, fever, headache or muscle pain. “Generally, kids’ side effects only last a day and are milder than adults’,” says Cennimo.
CALL YOUR PEDIATRICIAN WITH CONCERNS
If you have questions about the COVID vaccine for your child, talk to your pediatrician. “We don’t have all the answers yet, such as how long immunity will last or if we’ll need a booster due to the development of variants,” says Cennimo. “But we do know the risk of COVID in the U.S. is not zero, and some kids get very sick with COVID.” Getting your kids vaccinated is a step toward protecting them and those around them and resuming the activities your family loves.
—Arricca Elin SanSone is a New York-based health and lifestyle writer.