With the possible authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 years old, Dr. Andrew Nowalk, clinical director of Infectious Disease at UPMC Children’s Hospital, discussed what parents should know and how to talk to their kids about the vaccine.
Nowalk recognized that many parents have questions, but he stressed that the vaccine is well-studied, and the technology used to develop the vaccine has been around for a long time. “This vaccine is safe and effective, and data proves protection is the safest approach to combating the COVID-19 virus,” he said.
The dose for young children is much less than the dose for adults and children over 5. But in most ways, the vaccine is just like other childhood immunizations which protect them from serious infections. Pediatricians will offer the injection in the thigh or arm, depending on the child’s preference and what makes the child most comfortable.
Nowalk acknowledged that needles can be intimidating to young children and that parents can calm their children by explaining how the vaccine will help protect them. “Children need transparency to make them feel they are making the best decision for their bodies,” Nowalk said. “Parents should reference safety measures like wearing seatbelts and bicycle helmets, which kids know help protect them. Children love familiar things. When we make them comfortable, it’s easier on parents and kids alike.”
For parents who have questions or concerns about getting their child vaccinated, Nowalk advised seeking out accurate information on a government website, like CDC.gov, or speaking with a pediatrician. He noted that the internet is “full of inaccurate information” and cautioned parents about getting information from social media.
Once the vaccine is authorized, UPMC will offer the shots to children under five at UPMC pediatric practices, vaccine clinics at community sites, and other locations.