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COVID-19 in Children: Vaccines, Symptoms & Safety Tips

written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse Written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewed by Leann Poston, M.D. Reviewed by Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D.

Leann Poston, M.D.

Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.

November 23, 2021 Read Time - 8 minutes

*NOTE: Due to a lack of scientific data at this time, PlushCare physicians do not prescribe ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, or azithromycin/other antibiotics to treat COVID-19.

COVID 19 in Children: How Parents Can Protect Their Kids 

As children begin the school year, ways to protect them from COVID-19 and maintain safety are among the greatest concerns for parents and families. Experts suggest several mitigation (prevention) strategies to help protect children as they head back to school. 

We found out last year that there were negative mental health repercussions for children when their daily routines were disrupted. We know that students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction is a priority for many. This year, preventative measures are in place to allow children to attend school while feeling safe against COVID-19. 

Parents and families can get vaccinated to protect themselves and their children. Vaccines are available, free of charge, for individuals 5 years old and older. As of October 29, 2021, the FDA authorized Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for emergency use in children ages 5-11.

This COVID vaccine for ages 5-11 is a promising advancement, considering that the vaccine was only available to individuals aged 12 and older previously. Moderna has also tested a vaccine in children aged 6-11 with promising results, although it has not yet been approved by the FDA. COVID booster shots are only available to individuals 18 and older.

Having more individuals vaccinated within the family will provide more protection against the Delta variant. Another way to help reduce the spread is by wearing masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Routine hand washing with soap and water also reduces the spread of COVID 19 in children as well as in adults. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is an acceptable alternative. Parents and families can perform these actions to reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Can Children Get the COVID Vaccine?

Yes, children can now get the Pfizer COVID vaccine as of October 29, 2021. Pfizer tested two doses of the vaccine in 3,100 children ages 5-11. This COVID vaccine for children under 12 only contains 10 micrograms of actual vaccine, which is one third of the dose that the adult vaccine contains.

No serious side effects were found in the children COVID vaccine, and the children produced a strong immune response to the vaccine, similar to the immune response displayed in adults. Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for children is 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 and has been authorized for emergency use by the FDA.

Moderna has also tested a COVID vaccine for kids aged 6-11. Their study tested two doses of their vaccine containing 50 micrograms of the vaccine, half as strong as the adult dose. Moderna’s COVID vaccine for children under 12 was tested in 4,753 children, half of whom received the vaccine, while the other half received a dummy shot. The vaccine showed minimal side effects and promising results, which have been submitted to the FDA for approval.

The COVID booster shots are the third dose of the COVID vaccine if originally received Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, and a second dose if originally received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. They are intended to boost immunity and are only approved for individuals 18 and older as of now. Read here to learn more about the COVID-19 booster shots.

The Delta Variant and Children

The COVID-19 virus has mutated since December 2020, resulting in several different strains, or variants. The COVID-19 variants are categorized by the CDC as variants of interest, variants of concern or variants of high consequence. The classification is based on ease of transmission, severity of disease, and effectiveness of treatment options.

The Delta variant is classified as a “variant of concern” due to its increase in transmissibility. Recently, the Alpha variant was the most dominant in the United States; however, the Delta variant is now the most prevalent variant of the COVID-19 virus in the United States.

The Delta variant differs from previous variants because it is more contagious and has caused more children to be hospitalized. In states where data was available, less than 2% of all cases of COVID 19 in children required hospitalization and 0.00% to 0.03% were fatal. 

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Stanford University, stated to National Public Radio that she is not seeing any patterns that suggest the virus is more virulent or more serious or severe in children than it was before this variant appeared; however, this data is inconclusive and still being studied. Thus, it does not appear that the Delta variant symptoms in children are more severe.

The Delta variant’s impact on kids is more prevalent than previous variants. According to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, children accounted for roughly 15% of all newly reported COVID-19 cases across the nation for the week ending on Aug. 5. 

Unvaccinated people are at the greatest risk from the Delta variant. They are much more likely to contract and therefore transmit the virus. Since children younger than 12 years old could not begin getting vaccinated until late October 2021, perhaps this is why we were seeing an increase in cases among children. 

The Delta variant is highly contagious and is estimated to be more than 2 times as contagious as previous variants. The increase in transmission is why preventative measures should be put into place indoors, especially when COVID-19 transmission is high in the community.  

Safety Tips for Going Back to School

Wearing masks indoors, social distancing when possible, hand washing, and getting vaccinated with one of the COVID-19 vaccines makes going back to school safer for everyone.

For children, wearing a mask can be difficult. Proper mask wearing includes a tight-fitting mask that covers the nose and mouth. Proper ways to wear a mask include:

  • Completely covering your nose and mouth.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face and does not have any gaps.
  • Have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask.
  • Find a mask that is made for children to help ensure proper fit.
  • Do NOT place masks on children younger than 2 years old.
  • Be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on a mask.
  • Do NOT touch the mask when wearing it.
  • Reusable masks should be washed whenever it gets dirty or at least daily. 

The CDC recommends social distancing in schools when possible with at least a 3-foot distance between children. Hand washing is always important to reduce the risk of infection. Hand washing should be performed often and for at least 20 seconds.

Since there is now the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, vaccination will significantly help keep kids safe from the virus. Pfizer’s children COVID vaccine is 91% effective in preventing COVID 19 in children aged 5-11.

For families with school-aged unvaccinated kids (kids younger than 5 years old), there are ways to protect yourself and loved ones. The most impactful way to protect your children is by getting vaccinated yourself. 


Read More: Back to School Vaccines


Delta Variant Symptoms in Children 

Vaccines continue to reduce a person’s risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, including the Delta variant. If your child is vaccinated, they are less likely to contract the virus, and even if they do, COVID-19 symptoms in children are likely to be very mild. The Delta variant symptoms in children do not appear to be different or more severe than they were before. However, children are still at risk for becoming very sick or hospitalized from COVID-19 and having both short and long-term health complications from COVID-19 infection. 

COVID-19 symptoms in children usually appear milder and more cold-like than in adults. Symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor feeding or poor appetite
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Belly pain

Children who have been infected with COVID-19 can also develop serious complications such as MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) which is a condition where parts of the body becoming inflamed, such as the eyes, heart, lungs, brain, or digestive systems. 

If your child is showing mild symptoms of COVID-19, consider trying an online doctor since ER and urgent care centers may be overwhelmed and may cause unnecessary increased exposure.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Get COVID-19 Treatment Online

For children, COVID-19 is treated symptomatically as an outpatient (not requiring hospitalization). No medication has been proven in unhospitalized children to cure COVID-19 disease. However, our doctors at PlushCare can help treat symptoms in children who are showing signs of COVID-19 as well as other illnesses, and can refer for testing as appropriate. At PlushCare, you see a doctor in the comfort of your own home with the use of telemedicine. Seeing an online doctor is safer and more convenient than going to an urgent care or the ER.

You can get access to trustworthy expert medical advice from the safety of your own home. At PlushCare, our online doctors have trained at the top 50 U.S. medical schools. The benefits of online telemedicine include:

  • No commute or travel
  • No waiting rooms
  • Being seen by a highly qualified doctor 
  • Low cost as telemedicine is partnered with many major insurance carriers

If you or your child are showing signs of COVID-19, make an appointment to speak with a PlushCare doctor today.


Read More About COVID 19 in Children


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Delta variant. What we know about the science. Accessed on August 21, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/delta-variant.html 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Families & Children. Accessed on August 21, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/groups/families-children.html 

Cleveland Clinic. Delta variant and children. Accessed on August 21, 2021 from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/delta-variant-and-children/

National Public Radio. Coronavirus live updates: Nearly 94,000 Kids Got COVID-19 Last Week. They Were 15% Of All New Cases. Accessed on August 21, 2021 from https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/08/10/1026375608/nearly-94-000-kids-got-covid-19-last-week-they-were-15-of-all-new-infections

FDA.gov. FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use in Children 5 through 11 Years of Age. Accessed on November 9, 2021 from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-authorizes-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-emergency-use-children-5-through-11-years-age

Stat News. Moderna says its low-dose Covid vaccine works for kids 6 to 11. Accessed on November 9, 2021 from https://www.statnews.com/2021/10/25/moderna-low-dose-covid-vaccine-works-kids/

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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