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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

December 28, 2021
COVID-19 Variants and Kids: What Parents Should Know
COVID-19’s Delta Variant and Kids: What Parents Should Know

This article was last updated on Dec. 9, 2021

As COVID-19 cases rise in our community, many parents and caregivers are wondering how best to keep the babies, kids and teens in their lives safe. We spoke to the infectious diseases team at Phoenix Children’s to get answers to the most common questions they’re getting about COVID-19 in kids, how the Delta variant affects kids and more:

What is Phoenix Children’s seeing in terms of COVID-19 cases in children?

Phoenix Children’s is seeing a rising number of COVID-19 cases in children. This is in line with state and national trends. We are seeing more previously healthy, unvaccinated kids with COVID-19.

How can parents protect their kids from COVID-19?

To protect your child from COVID-19, it’s essential for them to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is made available to them. Ensuring herd immunity is a key factor in putting the pandemic behind us. In addition, we encourage everyone to follow proper hand-washing techniques and follow CDC mask guidance.

Do current COVID-19 vaccines protect against the Delta variant and the Omicron variant?

Each of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently available offer protection against the Delta variant. It’s important for people to remember that these vaccines are still reliable in terms of preventing hospitalizations. Even if you come into contact with COVID-19 after you’ve been vaccinated, your symptoms will likely be very mild, or you may even be asymptomatic. The vaccine is still doing its job at preventing hospitalizations and death.

The Omicron variant is new, and studies on how infectious it is remain ongoing. We expect data soon related to vaccine efficacy. What we do know, is that Delta remains the predominant variant, and existing vaccines offer protection against the Delta variant. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as it is made available to them. Getting vaccinated will help prevent the emergence of new variants.

How can people protect themselves against the Delta variant and the Omicron variant?

Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, when one is made available to you, is crucial in protecting our families and our community, and will be a key factor in putting the pandemic behind us. We also encourage everyone to follow proper hand-washing techniques and follow CDC mask guidance.

How does vaccinating adults help protect children?

As an adult, being vaccinated helps prevent unknowingly spreading COVID-19 to the children in your homes and in your community. Children who are too young to get vaccinated right now are protected by those of us who are eligible for the vaccine getting vaccinated.

Generally, infection rates in children tend to fall as more adults are immunized.

What COVID-19 vaccine is available for children? 

 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11. Pfizer also was granted an EUA in May 2021 for a vaccine for children 12-15. Their vaccine has full FDA approval for those age 16 and older. COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, as well as Johnson & Johnson, have been granted EUA for those 18 and older. Current studies are evaluating the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in young children starting at age 6 months. Pfizer announced that we could see data in children ages 6 months-11 years in the coming months, and we are optimistic that even more vaccines will be made available soon to a wider population.

Do children have stronger or milder reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine? What can parents do to ease these side effects?

Younger people tend to have more robust immune systems, which usually means stronger responses to all vaccines. Any side effect a child experiences from the vaccine – even rare side effects – are far better than children experiencing severe cases of COVID-19 that require hospitalization and intensive care.

There are rare cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, that were reported in young people ages 12-29 years old after mRNA vaccines. The presentation seems to be very mild and all those patients recovered with no issues afterward. It is important to keep in mind that myocarditis is also reported as a complication of acute COVID-19, and experts are still recommending the vaccine since the benefits outweigh the risk of developing this mild reaction.   

People of any age who don’t experience a strong response to a vaccine are still building antibodies and receiving the proven protection vaccines offer.

Over-the-counter medications are a safe way to treat common vaccine side effects such as fever, chills or body ache.

COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children. Why is it still important for children to get vaccinated?

While it’s true that generally, children tend to experience milder COVID-19 symptoms than adults, children in the U.S. – especially those with underlying health conditions – have experienced serious complications and hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Achieving herd immunity is a key factor in ending the COVID-19 pandemic. To protect everyone in our homes and in our communities, it’s essential that everyone receive the COVID-19 vaccine when one is made available to them.

Has this type of vaccine ever been used in children before? 

The same mRNA technique used in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine – where the vaccine teaches our bodies how to make a piece of a protein and trigger an immune response – has been studied for decades. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19, and mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is kept. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.

Do children need booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine?

The CDC recently updated their guidance surrounding booster shots, encouraging a wider population to receive them. Click here for updated CDC guidance on booster shots.

If my child had a breakthrough case of COVID-19, should they still get a booster?

The COVID-19 vaccines are designed to prevent serious hospitalization and death, and they offer more protection than the infection itself. If your child experienced a rare breakthrough case of COVID-19 after they were fully vaccinated, we encourage them to receive a booster shot when they are out of quarantine, their symptoms have improved, and they are age-eligible. This will provide added protection in the future.

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