Hope for the Holidays: Creating Safe Celebrations with the COVID-19 Vaccine
By Meghan Benak, MD - Dothan Pediatric Clinic
The holiday season brings immense joy for families. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made celebrations over the last two years look a little different. A question I often hear from families is, “Will this ever end?” Vaccines are our best chance to bring an end to the pandemic. While many adults and older children have had the opportunity to get the vaccine over the last several months, this holiday season is the children’s turn.
At the time of this publication, the Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccine is available for children older than 5 years of age. As an mRNA vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any part of the virus. It actually teaches the body’s immune system to recognize the virus in the future. The booster dose administered 21 days later re-emphasizes the earlier lesson from the initial vaccine, helping our body better protect itself against COVID-19.
The COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 is a lower dose than for children 12 and older. It does not change your DNA or interact with your child’s genetic material in any way. “This vaccine seems rushed” is a comment I hear often. Scientists have been studying the technology for mRNA vaccines for over 30 years. In addition, these vaccines have been a part of some of the largest clinical trials ever conducted. For a vaccine to be approved in the U.S., it must pass several safety checks and steps. A vaccine is never approved if it fails any of the steps.
When studying the vaccine in children, scientists took into consideration the differences in their immune systems and found a lower dose is more appropriate. Over 10,000 children have participated in the COVID-19 vaccine trials. Millions of children ages 12 and up have been safely vaccinated since the COVID-19 vaccine became available in May 2021.
Children are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose. Once fully vaccinated, there is a lower chance they will get COVID-19. If they do get the virus, they are less likely to become as ill or require hospitalization as someone who is not vaccinated.
To celebrate the holidays safely, having your entire family vaccinated against COVID-19 is especially important for protecting those who cannot get the vaccine, such as infants and children under 5. My family and I look forward to returning to sweet holiday celebrations again, and by working together, we can all return to safer joyful festivities.