COVID-19 Vaccine: What Parents Need to Know [Matt Bien]

Video Transcript

My name is Matt Bien and I'm an internal medicine and pediatric specialist at Avera Medical Group Brookings, and I've been in this community for the past 20 years.

How do vaccines work?

Well, the concept behind all vaccines is that we show the body a little piece of the bacteria or virus, the body then builds an antibody against that, and down the road when the actual pathogen is encountered, we're ready to fight the disease.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

So, multiple systems are in place for us to monitor the safety of vaccines, whether it's with children or with adults. This vaccine in particular hasn't been used before, but the concept has been used for many years in research. So, we've studied it now in adults for over a year and we studied it in children for at least a few months, and thus far, we found no significant concerns regarding safety for children.

Do children receive the same dose as adults?

Yes, the current vaccine that we have out for children or teens, the Pfizer vaccine, is at the same dose for adults and teens down to age 12. The Pfizer vaccine research for children down to age 2 is using a smaller dose of the vaccine, and that's proportionate to the child's weight. The Moderna vaccine is actually looking at children down to age 6 months, also using a smaller dose.

What are typical side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?

I think similar to other vaccines, there's likely to be some soreness in the arm, maybe some body aches, chills, fever. Most of those side effects go away within 24 to 48 hours and the studies thus far look at about 6% rate of having one of those side effects.

When is a child considered fully vaccinated?

I would say two weeks after the final dose in the series, that child would be considered fully vaccinated.

Should a child receive the vaccine if they already had COVID-19?

So, even if they've already had COVID, I would recommend getting the vaccine for a couple of reasons. One would be it's going to boost the effect from the original infection. So, probably extend that coverage of protecting them against any COVID variant they would encounter in the future. The other reason would be I think it expands the protection against the multiple variants that we're starting to see. If someone has an active COVID infection, it is recommended that they wait two weeks, so kind of their quarantine period, until they would consider getting the vaccine. But beyond that, there really should be no safety concerns or limits as to getting the vaccine.

Can a child receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as their normal vaccines?

I think when the vaccines first came out in the adult population, they really wanted to separate the COVID vaccine from any other vaccines in part because they really wanted to understand how it was affecting the body. What kind of reactions were we gonna get? But, now that we've had some experience, both in adults and in children, we've looked at it and said, "They can be given together with other routine vaccines without concern," and it's really important that children stay on track with their routine vaccinations and now we can administer the two together.

Can the vaccine cause future development or reproductive issues?

I think that's a good question and I think parents have the right to be concerned about those things. When I think about possible adverse effects, you'd like to think that there's some biological or plausible reason why this could happen. And when you think about growth or development or fertility issues, there really isn't a biological way for this vaccine to affect those things. So, in my opinion, I don't think there's any concern in regard to fertility or growth or development down the road. Again, we're going to keep looking at these things, but these concerns have been raised about almost every vaccine that have come out for children, and they've been studied over and over and over and really haven't worn out.

When will children under 12 be eligible for the vaccine?

So, under age 12, Pfizer is actually shooting for a September date and that may be a little aggressive. I would say probably late fall. Moderna, again, down to even age 6 months, is looking at late 2021 or early 2022, so relatively soon.

Why do you encourage parents to vaccinate their children?

So, over the past year, we've learned a lot about COVID, the disease, and as well as COVID, the vaccine, and we've found that while most children are gonna have a benign course, some have more severe consequences. So, more than 13,000 children have been hospitalized, more than 300 have actually died from the COVID disease. So, it's not benign for everyone. So, for that reason alone, I'd encourage parents to consider vaccinating their children. We also have to look at the human factors involved, and if you think back over the past year and all the difficulty caused by COVID, all of the things that we missed out on, they may not need to quarantine or be out of school or daycare once they receive the vaccine. They won't miss visiting Grandma and Grandpa, going to weddings, all of the things that this past year's been so difficult for them.

How can we protect babies from COVID-19?

So, looking ahead, when we have the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines approved for children down to age 6 months, there's still children younger than that and how can we protect them? You know, one of the best things would be for mom to get vaccinated. If she receives that vaccine before or during her pregnancy, she's gonna build antibodies that are then passed onto the baby, and that baby's gonna have that protection for maybe four, sometimes even up to six months after delivery.

How long do you expect the COVID-19 vaccine to last?

So, we certainly have more to learn about the vaccine, but currently, it looks like the COVID vaccine should last at least a year, probably two to three years. It will depend a little bit on how much shift we see in the virus. So, if some of the new variants are different enough from the original, we may think about getting a booster, say, a year or two years down the road. It's different though than the flu vaccine in that this virus doesn't look like it's changing as much, and the spike protein that we're targeting changes very little compared to the part of the virus we look at in the flu virus, for example. So, it is likely that this vaccination is gonna last much longer than, say, your typical annual flu vaccine. But again, we're gonna have to wait and see how this plays out over the next year.

Has mRNA technology been around long enough to prove its safety?

Yeah, so the mRNA technology, even though it's a new concept, the research has been going on for 15 years or longer, you know, initially looking at some other conditions like cancer treatment. So, the mRNA technology then came back to the forefront when SARS became an issue worldwide with an outbreak outside of the U.S., and the technology was developed to create a vaccine. Come last February, everything started to happen with the coronavirus again, and we used the same technology to create the COVID vaccine in a relatively short period of time because that testing and technology was sort of developed in the years prior. So, it's been looked at for many years. It's been proven, at least at a biological level, to be a very safe and effective way to deliver a vaccine, and now that's bearing out over the last year.