The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that everyone aged five years old and older get the free COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC highlights that as of January 11 this year, almost two million out of about 28 million children in the U.S. aged five to 11 had COVID-19.
Contrary to the belief that COVID-19 is not dangerous to children, it can lead to hospitalization, serious complications, and death. It is now among the top 10 causes of mortality among children from five to 11 years old. Over 2,300 children in this age group who had COVID-19 developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) that includes the inflammation of the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal organs, eyes, skin, or other body parts. Children with existing medical conditions have an even higher risk of severe illness when infected with COVID-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fully authorized Pfizer-BioNTech for children aged 16 and older. It has granted emergency authorization for the vaccine for children aged five to 15. Those 12 and older are advised to get a booster shot not less than five months after the first two shots. The booster shot for those up to 17 years old is also Pfizer-BioNTech. The CDC states that complete vaccination followed by a booster shot is the best way to protect people from COVID-19 and its complications.
Common side effects after vaccination are redness and swelling with some pain in the arm where the shot was administered. A cool compress on the area can give relief. The child may also feel tired, nauseous, get a headache, and have a fever with or without chills and muscle pain. Ask the healthcare provider for a recommended over-the-counter pain reliever and fever medication. The CDC cautions that aspirin is not recommended for children younger than 18 years old. The side effects of the vaccine last for only a day or two at most.
The CDC dispels the myth that the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe since it went through rigorous testing before getting any type of approval from the FDA. It also does not cause any reproductive problems, as claimed by some. It is safer by far to immunize a child against COVID-19 than to risk their life through an infection.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated that as of January 26, the CDC reported that only 20 percent or 5.7 million children in the U.S. aged five to 11 have been fully vaccinated. Among those aged 12 to 17, 55 percent or 13.7 million have been fully vaccinated.
Parents with Clashing Views
It becomes a problem if the parents of a child disagree about COVID-19 vaccination. This has become a problem that can involve family lawyers or mediators. When the parents are divorced, it affects issues on legal custody and physical custody.
Having physical custody of a child means having the child in that parent’s care most of the time. Parental visits may or may not be granted by the court to the other parent. Sometimes, both parents have legal custody of the child. This means that even if the child stays with one parent most of the time, all major decision-making, including medical decisions, must be discussed and agreed on by both parents.
If one parent believes in the need to have the child vaccinated and the other disagrees, the parent who is for vaccination can not go ahead and have the child vaccinated. Doing so can lead to a court case and the loss of legal and physical custody. For a parent who is very much concerned about the child’s protection, this is an untenable situation. Both parents can undergo mediation, most often with the child’s pediatrician also involved in the discussions.
Varying Opinions Among States
The problem in the U.S. is that different states have varying mandates on the COVID-19 vaccine for children from five to 17 years old, regardless of what the CDC recommends. Where the child resides can, therefore, affect the court’s ruling.
According to PEW research, a 2021 memo from the U.S. Justice Department stated that the FDA’s decisions mean that any public or private entity can make the vaccine mandatory. This includes schools.
The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) notes that only California and the District of Columbia have mandated vaccination for K-12 schoolchildren in schoolyear 2022 to 2023, but only after the FDA grants full authorization for the vaccines even for children aged five to 16. In Louisiana, there is a vaccination mandate for K-12 schoolchildren, but parents can opt out. In Illinois and New York, there is a vaccination mandate for institutions of higher education but not for K-12 schools.
On the other hand, 17 states are banning any mandate on the vaccination of students. These are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. In Ohio and Utah, there is a ban on vaccination mandates for vaccines that do not have full FDA approval. In Idaho, Indiana, and South Carolina, the ban on having a school vaccination mandate is limited to public institutions for higher education.
The issue is highly divisive. Meanwhile, Omicron continues to spread across the nation, even among children.