This is Part 3 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABCs of Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.
Top three takeaways:
- Vaccination doesn’t guarantee your child won’t get sick, but it reduces the likelihood. It also lowers the threat of severe illness, hospitalization and death.
- The vaccines to protect against COVID and influenza have both been thoroughly researched, are continually monitored for safety, and have been safely given to hundreds of millions of children and adults.
- If you have specific questions or concerns, please talk them over with a medical professional such as your child’s pediatrician or family doctor.
Why should my child get vaccinated?
In a nutshell, vaccines train the immune system to recognize and respond to the threat of a virus.
If our immune system can recognize the virus and mount an immune response quickly, we are much less likely to become seriously sick. If we do become sick at all, it will typically be a milder illness.
Both COVID and influenza are respiratory illnesses with the potential to cause serious complications. Vaccines prepare your child’s immune system to respond if they are exposed to the viruses that cause these illnesses. The flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine are separate, but it is safe to get them at the same appointment unless your medical provider advises otherwise.
The COVID vaccine currently available for children is an mRNA vaccine. It includes a snippet of genetic code (the messenger RNA) for a small portion of the virus (the spike proteins). Once we’re vaccinated, our cells use that code to recognize and defend against the virus. The vaccine doesn’t contain the actual virus that causes COVID.
There are multiple types of influenza vaccines, and your doctor can help with guidance if you are interested in a specific type. All of the flu vaccines in the U.S. are quadrivalent, which means they protect against four different viruses. Researchers determine which influenza viruses are likely to be the most common in the coming flu season so the vaccines can be tailored to counter them. There are injectable and nasal spray vaccines. Injectable vaccines contain inactivated virus that is no longer infectious. The nasal spray contains a weakened live virus. Both are able to mount an immune response without causing infection.
Most children who become sick with respiratory illnesses like the flu or COVID will recover on their own. However, both diseases can be dangerous. A severe case or related complications can send children to the hospital and, in rare cases, be fatal. Children also can spread a virus to other vulnerable individuals, such as elderly family members or people who have weakened immune systems. Getting children vaccinated against flu and COVID protects them and those around them.
COVID and flu vaccines are available at no cost, even if your child if not insured. If you are concerned about office visit costs or other fees, there are providers who waive or reduce those. A list of resources is available in multiple languages at www.snohd.org/525/Immunization-Resources, and you can also find more information and providers at www.snohd.org/covidvaccine and www.snohd.org/flu.
Is it safe for children to be vaccinated?
Flu vaccination is recommended annually (preferably by the end of October) for everyone six months and older.
COVID vaccine is currently available for ages 5 and older, with rigorous trials, research and review underway so a vaccine may be authorized for younger children soon, too.
These vaccines have gone through thorough research, development, trials and expert reviews. The process in place to vet vaccines in the U.S. is extensive and layered, allowing experts in multiple fields of science and medicine to weigh in before authorization or approval is given for widespread use of a new vaccine.
Influenza vaccines have been in use for decades – the first was in the 1940s. Millions and millions of Americans receive their flu vaccines each year, and adverse events after vaccination are exceedingly rare.
The COVID vaccines are relatively new, but the research that laid the foundation for these vaccines is not new, and neither is the vetting process mentioned earlier. There are multiple layers of safety and quality assurance. Oversight and review of the FDA and CDC’s authorization process for the vaccines was led by panels of independent experts. Washington was also a member of the Western States Pact, which created the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup for another layer of scrutiny before vaccine recommendations are updated in the state of Washington.
As with the flu vaccine, millions and millions of doses of COVID vaccine have been administered, and adverse events following vaccination are rare. Common side effects include a sore arm, headache or body aches, and tiredness.
If you have questions specific to vaccines and your child’s health, be sure to talk to their healthcare provider.
But I heard ….
You’ve probably heard a lot of conversations, or seen many messages online, both in favor of and against vaccination.
It’s understandable to be cautious when it comes to the health and wellness of your kids. There is a lot of misinformation circulating that may make you hesitate to get you child vaccinated.
We’ve already talked about the vetting of vaccines before they are authorized, the rarity of adverse events, and the benefits of vaccination in reducing serious complications from these illnesses. There are a number of reliable resources to look to for more details, and we encourage you to do so. The list at the end of this blog has some good places to start.
More importantly, we encourage you to turn to medical professionals. There is no vaccine to protect against the glut of bad information available online. If you search for reasons to get vaccinated or not to get vaccinated, you will find plenty of both. It can be hard to sift through the reliable and the less reliable sources.
Conversations with friends and family members can also be helpful. However, remember that people you trust to give advice in many other areas of your life may not necessarily have the medical knowledge to field detailed questions about vaccines. This is why we recommend talking to your child’s healthcare provider.
Take some time now to check off the “C” in the ABCs of healthy children. Has your child been vaccinated against COVID? Did they get their annual flu vaccine?
Vaccination can help you and your family avoid serious illness from these respiratory viruses.
Read more about COVID vaccination for children:
Read more about influenza vaccination for children: