Understanding vaccine eligibility for kids

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Posted at 4:55 PM, May 17, 2021

Monique Rodriguez says she’s very eager to get her kids vaccinated.

“This week, they announced that the new Pfizer was going to be eligible for 15-12-year-olds and I posted out so disappointingly like ‘man, my kid’s 11’ and it’s just so close but not quite,” Rodriguez said.

She says she understands the permanent consequences COVID-19 can leave behind.

“I’ve had two uncles on both opposite sides of my family pass away from COVID.”

Even though she and her husband are vaccinated, she still feels anxious about the impact the virus could have on her children. And she wants her kids to have normal lives again.

“They have said so many times that they hate COVID because it has completely upended their lives,” Rodriguez said.

Dr. Kawsar Talaat with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says the FDA waited to approve the Pfizer vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds because when the agency licenses a product, it will only authorize it for the age group it’s studied in.

“For any new vaccine, any new product, because children are considered a vulnerable population, we generally want to make sure that the vaccine is safe in adults before we take it down to children even if the vaccine is only going to be used in babies,” Dr. Talaat said.

As for the age breakdown in vaccine eligibility, Dr. Talaat believes puberty has something to do with it.

“If you think about who falls into that 12-15 age range, it’s going through puberty," Dr. Talaat said. "So they’re different than the 16 and older who have already gone through puberty and closer to young adults, and they’re different from kids who are younger – most of them haven’t really started yet or they’re just starting puberty so there are hormonal differences and they’ve also generally gone through their growth spurts during the 12-15 age range.”

She says it makes sense to slowly roll the vaccine out to kids. What she wants everyone to know is that the COVID-19 vaccine will not have an impact on the development of your child.

“The RNA from the vaccine is gone within a couple days from our bodies," Dr. Talaat said. "The only thing that’s left is our immune response to it so that we can be protected when we encounter the coronavirus. So it doesn’t have any lasting effect on our bodies, on our children’s bodies, or their development.”

The CDC website states researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. Rodriguez says she trusts the science and the system.

“I used to tell my kids when they were little and had to get their vaccines and they would cry ‘a little pain now to save a lot of tears later’ was the expression that I would use with them,” Rodriguez said.

Dr. Talaat says the hope is for all kids to be eligible for the vaccine by Fall.