Montefiore pediatrician busts COVID-19 vaccine myths

Director of Pediatric Infection Control at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM), Dr. Margaret Aldrich
Courtesy of Montefiore

Now that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective for children over 12-years-old and with emergency use authorization expected for younger kids in the fall, parents have many questions about their child getting vaccinated.

As with any health care decision, one important conversation that should take place is between families and pediatricians to address concerns.

Pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Dr. Margaret Aldrich, shares the most commonly asked questions and her responses.

“The long-term risks of COVID may be more worrisome than getting vaccinated, so we encourage families to get their children protected as soon as possible, as I have done for mine,” Aldrich stated.  

  1. How does the vaccine work?
    • The Pfizer vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that teaches your body to make something called a spike protein. The spike protein your body makes looks like the spike protein on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Your body then makes antibodies to fight and destroy the spike protein; that way if you are exposed to the real SARS-Cov-2 spike protein after vaccination, your body will be ready to fight it off.
    • After being vaccinated, your body breaks down the components of the vaccine so that it does not stay in your body for a prolonged period. It leaves your body primed to fight on its own. Important to note is that the vaccine does not alter your DNA and there is no microchip or tracking device in the vaccine.
  2. How was it produced and approved so quickly?
    • The vaccine we are using today is based on technology that has been studied for several decades. The reason this vaccine was created, tested and approved quickly is because scientists across the world stopped everything they were doing and worked together day in, day out, to perfect this technology. Also, governments backed the efforts financially and the complete data was reviewed more urgently due to the pressing need to stop illness and death.
  3. Were corners cut in the development and/or testing of the vaccine?
    • All the normal steps for vaccine development were followed and extra resources directed at the effort ensured timely availability of the vaccine.
  4. How many children participated in the trials and did any have serious side effects?
    • The Pfizer mRNA vaccine trial enrolled 2,260 children ages 12-15 years, in six countries. As of June 9, almost one million children between 12-15 years old have been fully vaccinated in the United States, and there has been no definite link between the vaccine and adverse events.
  5. Are children experiencing heart issues after getting the vaccine?
    • Preliminary reports show that in rare instances, teens have experienced myocarditis, or heart inflammation, after COVID-19 vaccination. Most cases were mild and further study is needed to determine whether it is definitively linked to the vaccine.
  6. How do we know the long-term side-effects of this vaccine?
    • We now have about one year of data for this vaccine based on adults who first received it. Side effects with vaccination are generally seen within weeks to months of vaccination. There is no indication to date that the mRNA vaccine has any long-term side effects.
  7. Does my child really need this vaccine if the adults around them are getting it?
    • Children will remain at increased risk of getting SARS-CoV-2 infection from each other, and unvaccinated adults, as long as children are not vaccinated. COVID illness has been milder in children overall as compared to adults, but it still has caused severe illness and death of children. Between January and April  there were 127 children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old who died of COVID in the USA alone and it ranks in the top ten causes of death in this age group.
  8. Will the COVID-19 Vaccine affect my child’s fertility?
    • There is no evidence to suggest that the COVID vaccine has any effect on fertility as its components are broken down by the body shortly after the injection. The vaccine stimulates your immune system, it does not have any effect on the reproductive system.

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