With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, the country (and world) are feeling a sense of relief as vaccine rollouts continue to increase each day by the hundreds of thousands. With over 192 million doses administered and nearly 80 million people fully vaccinated to date, herd immunity and a semblance of normalcy seem to be on the horizon for many of us who have spent the last year social distancing from friends and loved ones and masking up every time we leave the house.
Three vaccines have received emergency use authorization by the FDA (with an urge to place the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hold due to some questionable side effects) and the Pfizer mRNA vaccine is available to anyone aged 16 and older while the Moderna mRNA vaccine is available to anyone aged 18 and older.
Low risk doesn’t equal no risk
Although COVID-19 has been shown to be less dangerous or life-threatening for younger people, including young children, teens, and young adults, it is imperative that you get your child vaccinated when vaccines become available for their specific age group. Approximately 10% of those who become infected with COVID-19 are children aged 5 to 17. Although deaths are rare in children due to COVID-19, they are not obsolete. Children have experienced all levels on the symptom spectrum from asymptomatic to severe and long-lasting symptoms. With the COVID-19 vaccine, the risk of catching COVID-19 and/or passing it on to someone else who can become severely ill is mitigated.
Vaccines are safe and effective in combating COVID-19
There are varying opinions on the safety of the current vaccine options for both teens and adults. Most of the worry comes from the speed at which the vaccines were created and approved. Nix the worry and understand that the speed was due in part to the wide amount of funding and dire need to combat a global pandemic. All standard testing and trials were conducted prior to the emergency approval by the FDA so the vaccines are safe. The risk of a vaccine reaction is far less than the risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19.
Symptoms of the Pfizer vaccine can include:
- Pain and/or tenderness at the injection site
- Arm soreness
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
Side effects typically arise within the first hours to days of receiving the shot and dissipate relatively quickly. Note that symptoms may be different in type and severity between the first shot and the second.
Herd immunity depends on strength in numbers
The more people vaccinated the higher the protection is on a community level. Teenagers play a vital role in the spread of COVID-19. In order to reach a level of herd immunity at least 85% of the population must be vaccinated or have antibodies against COVID-19 from previously contracting and fighting the virus. Teenagers are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to spreading COVID-19 without knowing it as their symptoms are either non-existent or extremely mild. Vaccinations will allow them to live out their normal teenage lives and gather safety with others who have been vaccinated without the risk of further community spread. Herd immunity allows us to return to a level of normalcy that we felt prior to the pandemic, but we must ensure enough people are vaccinated to reach the percentage we need to get there.
How and when do I get my teen vaccinated?
President Biden has urged states to offer vaccines to everyone by April 19th. Pennsylvania just opened availability to everyone 16 and older on April 13th, so your teen is available for the vaccine throughout the state. Ensure that you search for vaccine locations that offer the Pfizer vaccine, which is the only one available to those 16 and older. Once the first shot is scheduled, the second one will take place 21 days after the first. There are vaccine drive-thru sites and national pharmacies, like CVS, offering vaccine clinics so check often to sign up. If your teen is 18 and older they may opt for the Moderna shot series instead.