7 questions answered about COVID vaccines for kids 5-11, including where to get them in OKC
While some parents have jumped at the chance to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19, others are still looking for more information.
OU Health experts — pediatric specialists and moms themselves — broke down questions from parents on a panel about vaccinations for kids in the newly eligible 5 to 11 age group.
Federal health officials gave the green light for children in that age group to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which in trials was about 91% effective in preventing symptomatic disease in kids. Health officials recommend the vaccine for all kids ages 5 to 11.
Here’s what we learned:
What side effects can my child expect?
The side effects kids might experience are similar to what we’ve seen in adults and adolescents who have been vaccinated: a sore arm, a fever, muscle aches and fatigue for a day or two, said Dr. Donna Tyungu, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with OU Health.
What about possible long-term side effects?
Because of the nature of how vaccines work, any vaccine side effects would likely appear within a week to six weeks after vaccination, Tyungu said.
Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which means messenger RNA is in the vaccines to give our bodies instructions on how to build a defense against COVID-19. The delicate mRNA doesn’t stay in our body long after vaccination, Tyungu said.
“Generally, I am not at all concerned with long-term side effects,” she said. “We know that after the mRNA is in our system, it breaks down. Our cells will break down any leftover mRNA within 48 hours of having been vaccinated.”
What do we know about heart inflammation in children after vaccination?
Parents may have heard about rare cases of myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle, or pericarditis, inflammation of the heart sac, occurring after vaccination in young males.
“Myocarditis in this age group, between 5 and 11, is very rare in general,” said Dr. Elizabeth Makil, who specializes in pediatric cardiology.
During vaccine trials, there were no episodes of myocarditis among the roughly 3,000 children who participated, she said.
“We will be continuing to monitor for this as kids are being vaccinated, but in general, this age group, it’s not super common for them to have myocarditis in general,” she said.
What has been seen, Makil said, is some rare cases of myocarditis in males between the ages of 12 and 30. Myocarditis can also occur in people who become sick with COVID-19, she said.
How does COVID-19 affect kids? What long-term complications can kids have?
Earlier in the pandemic, children only made up a small share of COVID-19 cases, Tyungu said. But that’s changed — now, children are upwards of 20% of cases in a given week in Oklahoma.
“The virus has changed,” Tyungu said. “Children are now more impacted than they were before because of delta.”
While children are less at risk for severe complications from COVID-19 than older people are, they’re not guaranteed to have a mild case or to avoid long-term complications.
Around last Thanksgiving, Stephanie DeLeon, a pediatric hospitalist with OU Health, and her then-10-year-old daughter were infected with COVID-19.
It was a “pretty boring” course of the illness, DeLeon said. Both were mildly sick for a few days but recovered and went back to work and school by the time their isolation period was up.
But about six weeks after that, her daughter began having fevers, she said.
“At that point, we had been taking care of a lot of kids in the hospital with something called MIS-C, or multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children,” DeLeon said. “I was watching for that because we knew it could happen in kids.”
Her symptoms worsened — higher fevers, abdominal pain, vomiting — and screenings confirmed she had MIS-C, a rare but serious complication from COVID-19 in kids, her mother said. It’s only been within the last few weeks that her daughter has gotten the all-clear, she said.
“What was really not a big deal at first with our COVID infection, in fact has turned into eight months of worry and fear,” she said. “I don’t want any other family to have to experience what we did. … I’m so grateful for the vaccine and that we have the opportunity to protect our kids.”
Can the child receive a COVID-19 vaccine in their leg, rather than their arm?
It can be administered in either the arm or the leg, as long as it’s administered into the muscle. But some kids may prefer a shot in the arm in case of soreness.
What if I still have questions?
The doctors stressed that parents with more questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for their children should talk to a trusted medical professional.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Makil said. “We’re here to help you make those decisions. … If you have questions, call and we can talk about it. We want everyone to be safe and our vulnerable children to do well and not see them in the hospital.”
Where can one make an appointment in the Oklahoma City area?
COVID-19 vaccine appointments are now open to kids as young as 5. Here’s where you can find an appointment in the Oklahoma City area:
Oklahoma-City County Health Department
The city-county health department will begin vaccinating kids in the 5 to 11 age group starting Monday.
Appointments are available at OCCHD’s clinics, and there are also two upcoming evening vaccination events parents can sign their children up for, which will offer COVID-19 vaccines as well as other childhood vaccinations.
• 3 to 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15 at the Northeast Health Clinic, 2700 NE 63
• 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17 at the South Health Clinic, 6728 S. Hudson Ave.
A signup link will open on Friday for the Monday event and on Sunday for the Wednesday event on vaxokc.com, and anyone who needs help making an appointment can call the OCCHD hotline at 405-425-4489.
For other opportunities, visit vaxokc.com.
IMMYLabs is now scheduling vaccine appointments for kids ages 5-11. To make an appointment at one of its drive-through locations, visit IMMYLabs’ website.
Vaccination appointments at the Mercy Meinders NeuroScience Institute can be scheduled by visiting Mercy’s website.
Oklahoma Health Department
The state’s vaccine scheduling portal is now scheduling vaccination appointments for children as young as 5 across Oklahoma. To find an appointment near you, visit vaccinate.oklahoma.gov.
To see even more opportunities to get vaccinated, visit vaccines.gov.
Be sure to enter your ZIP Code and filter for pediatric vaccines to see the locations near you that have kid-size vaccines available. While the contents of the pediatric vaccine is the same as the adult one, vaccinations for kids ages 5-11 are given at a smaller dose and with smaller needles.