For those still awaiting or debating the vaccine in your 12-17 year-olds, a couple of pointers:
1️⃣ Why should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?
– The vaccine is highly effective in protecting against severe disease and death. Yes, most children have mild illness, BUT some children get very ill, require hospitalization or ventilation and even die. This is unacceptable in a vaccine-modifiable disease.
– The vaccine can help prevent long-term or severe inflammatory conditions such as Long-Covid and Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Disease.
– Teens can play a major part in transmitting the SARSCoV2 virus: vaccines can reduce transmission and protect the community.
– Vaccines can stop other variants from emerging.
2️⃣ Are the vaccines safe?
– Medication safety is taken extremely seriously by the regulatory authorities, including the FDA in the USA and SAHPRA in South Africa, who are constantly scrutinizing data. They have approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12-17 years and are currently assessing the vaccine in younger children.
– Transient “expected’ side effects such as headaches, fever, injection-site pain, fatigue and achiness can occur for 48 -72 hours post-vaccination.
– More severe side effects such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) are RARE, and far more common after the second dose of vaccine than the first dose- hence the decision for now to give teens one dose. From studies on millions of teens, the risk of myocarditis is approx 1 – 20 per million for the first dose, and 5-100 per million for the second dose. Most cases are mild and recover fully, occurring almost exclusively in males.
To put things into context: if you ACTUALLY GET COVID, the risk of myocarditis is at least 5 X higher than the risk from the vaccine!
Though mild, transient menstrual irregularities may occur post vaccine; there is NO effect on puberty or fertility.
3️⃣ How can I help my child?
– If possible, accompany them to the vaccination centre.
– You can consider putting local anaesthetic cream over the deltoid muscle 30-60 minutes prior to vaccination if they are very afraid of needles.
– I suggest that ALL children do not play any sport for 48 hours post vaccine.
– I would suggest that children, especially males, stay off all STRENUOUS sport (intensive running or conditioning training) for 5 days post vaccine.
– Paracetamol or ibuprofen for the day or two post vaccine can help relieve the “simple, expected” side effects such as achiness.
– If there are symptoms of possible myocarditis- such as chest pain, palpitations (fast or irregular heart rate), shortness of breath- please seek immediate medical attention.
4️⃣ What is the best timing for the vaccine?
Plan this carefully:
– Not within 48 hours of an exam
– Not within 5 days of a strenuous sporting event
– It takes 3-4 weeks to develop good immunity, so well before the December holidays (with its big get-togethers and possible fourth wave!)
5️⃣ What about if my child has already had COVID- is the vaccine still needed?
– The immune response after catching the SARSCoV2 virus is variable, transient and may be more variant-specific.
– The vaccine produces a more controlled, sustained antibody response, and activates other parts of the immune system such as your T cells, which can set up a prolonged memory and probably respond well also to future variants.
Remember, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks and the side effects of COVID-19 disease!
We wish out special young people much luck as they go for their vaccine!
We thank them for the role they are playing in curtailing the pandemic.