We know that getting our children vaccinated against COVID-19 will help protect them and their families from becoming seriously or severely ill.
We talked with Brian Laird, PharmD, a hospital pharmacy manager at OSF HealthCare, to better explain why children should get a COVID-19 vaccine and what role they play in helping to stop the spread of the virus and development of the more easily transmitted variants, such as delta and omicron.
Q: We often say that vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic. Can you explain?
Brian: A clear reason to get vaccinated is for people to build immunity to the virus. This can prevent the virus from spending long periods your body. The longer the virus is replicating in your body it increases the likelihood of mutations forming within the virus and possibly new variants resulting.
Also, the more virus produced by someone, the greater likelihood of them spreading it to others. Getting the vaccine can decrease the total amount of virus particles in your body and/or shorten the length of time they are present. This is key to lessening the spread.
In addition, the vaccines are still very good at preventing severe COVID-19, even if a vaccinated person gets sick.
Q: If a child is at less risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, what are the actual benefits of getting them vaccinated?
Brian: We always want to prevent a disease rather than treat it. While children don’t have the same hospitalization or death rates as older adults, it doesn’t mean those numbers are zero. Just because the children don’t end up in the hospital does not mean the disease is harmless. We don’t know all of the long-term consequences of getting COVID-19.
There are people with long-haul COVID-19 – symptoms for weeks to months – including kids. The vaccine has been proven to be very safe and effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, ‘Serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccine monitoring has historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine dose.
Knowing vaccine side effects are short term can help put people’s minds at ease. It is certainly better than developing long-haul COVID-19.
Q: What role do unvaccinated kids play in the spread or development of variants?
Brian: Unvaccinated children do play a role in spreading the virus and could play a role in the development of variants. Any time the virus replicates it has the potential to form a new variant. The best way to prevent variants from forming is to limit the number of virus replications. We limit replications by limiting infections. Vaccination is the best way to prevent or limit infections.
Q: What else would you add to the ‘why’ behind getting kids vaccinated?
Brian: Getting your child vaccinated will also help protect other children. We know children can spread COVID-19. When children get vaccinated, they are less likely to become infected or be sick for very long if they do become symptomatic.
Getting them vaccinated lessens the risk of spreading the virus to other children or adults at home, school or anywhere they interact with people.