By Anika Gundlapalli
On May 10, the FDA gave the EUA (emergency use authorization) for the administration of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12. However, vaccination rates in both children and adults throughout the country have slowed significantly. At the end of May, about 53% of individuals ages 12 and above in Texas had received at least one dose of the vaccine while the corresponding number was only 37% for Ector County. The creation of the vaccine was an important move in the right direction for ending the pandemic, but now it’s necessary that as many people get vaccinated as possible—teenagers included.
Getting the vaccine is the first step to attaining herd immunity and limiting the spread of the virus. Since the administration of the vaccine began, coronavirus cases have dropped by over 90%. Vaccinating teens is essential to promoting herd immunity; the overall level of community immunity to a particular disease. Herd immunity protects vaccinated individuals and those who are unable to get a vaccine due to health issues. Administering the vaccine to as many people as possible is the only way to end the pandemic quickly. This is all the more important with newer variants that are emerging, localities opening up and increasing travel throughout the US.
According to the CDC, getting the vaccine is the safest protection possible from harmful symptoms of the virus. Even though teenagers aren’t at the highest risk, vaccinating them is essential to keeping them safe. Although most cases of COVID-19 in children showed little to no symptoms, some children who contracted COVID-19 developed severe symptoms or MIS-C (multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children), causing them to develop chronic symptoms and —in rare cases— die. Common chronic symptoms of children who have contracted the virus include damage to important organs, mental health issues, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
New variants and mutations of the virus have proven to be more contagious and dangerous in younger individuals, increasing the risk of sustaining more serious illness. Also, even if children don’t have severe symptoms, they can still spread it to family members and high-risk people, such as the elderly, those with autoimmune disorders, and transplant recipients. To prevent these problems, it is crucial that teenagers (and younger children when it is approved for them) get the vaccine.
Additionally, teenagers tend to have an agenda that involves coming into contact with several people: they go to school, participate in extracurricular activities, see their friends and visit family members. In order to return to some normalcy for the next school year, it is essential that teenagers get the vaccine to protect themselves and others.
Despite myths and misinformation that have been spreading, the vaccine is safe and effective. Pfizer and the FDA found the vaccine to be safe and 100% effective during the Pfizer trial of over 2000 patients aged 12 to 16. The side effects found in the trial were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain. These side effects lasted for only a brief period, illustrating that the vaccine is extremely safe.
Due to being misinformed, many people refuse the vaccine and try to justify their decision with many excuses. One such excuse is that the long term side effects of the vaccine are unknown, but this is false because it has been safe in trials involving adults and teenagers. Therefore, these side effects would have been noted in the trial or post trial follow up. Another common myth is that you can contract COVID-19 from getting the vaccine. This is false because none of the vaccines contain the live virus, therefore it is impossible to contract Covid-19 from them.
The most efficient way to end the pandemic is getting the vaccine. Right now, the procedures of wearing a mask and social distancing are still being enforced in several places. In order for these safety precautions to ease, the pandemic has to end. The only way to do that is to lessen the spread of the virus by getting the vaccine.
The vaccine is available to everyone of ages 12 and above. For more information, or to find locations near you, go to www.vaccines.gov.