Two doses of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine among school-aged children safely and effectively reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, as well as associated risks for the development of multisystem inflammatory syndrome and COVID-19-related hospitalizations, suggest new data.
This study adds evidence to existing studies and “supports the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine in children aged 5 to 11,” authors Dr. Jun Yasuhara of the Center for Cardiovascular Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Dr. Toshiki Kuno of Montefiore Medical Center’s Division of Cardiology told ABC News.
Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center analyzed COVID-19 infection rates, symptom severity and vaccine side effects among 10,935,541 vaccinated children ages 5 to 11 compared with 2,635. 251 unvaccinated children.
They found that vaccinated children had lower infection rates and less severe symptoms if they ended up infected. Serious injection reactions were rare, and any local injection irritation disappeared after several days. The low rates of serious side effects should be reassuring for parents and caregivers concerned about adverse events after vaccination, according to the study authors.
The study also found only a small increase in children’s risk of developing inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) after being vaccinated against COVID-19. It found that there are 1.8 cases of myocarditis per million children receiving two doses of the vaccine, a rate comparable to or slightly higher than for children diagnosed with myocarditis before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the risk of myocarditis after getting COVID-19 is much higher than after getting the vaccine, according to Kuno and Yasuhara. In addition, children are less likely to survive if they contract COVID-19-related multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare condition associated with the virus, than those who developed myocarditis after mRNA vaccination.
Despite vaccine safety, too few children are vaccinated. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in January found overall low rates of immunization coverage among children and adolescents ages 5 to 17. The report also revealed racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccination status for adolescents and children. Vaccination coverage among black children aged 5 to 11 was lower than that among Hispanic, Asian, and other minority children.
In another study, just one in five parents of school-age children said their child has received their current COVID-19 booster or definitely will, while 9 percent reported their child is likely to receive a booster. This is in contrast to the 61% of parents who said their child remained unvaccinated and therefore ineligible for a booster.
There are many reasons parents are reluctant to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Dr. Angela Myers, director of the infectious diseases division at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Kansas City, Missouri.
That includes the misconception that the vaccine isn’t effective because it doesn’t block all infections, Myers said. “Rather than [it] protects against serious infection, hospitalization and death,” he said.
Myers said parents should talk to their child’s pediatrician if they have questions about the vaccine.
“Despite vaccine hesitancy and sometimes refusal, your child’s primary care physician is still the best place to get the best and most up-to-date information,” she said. “Children’s physicians want the best for all children, and data has shown that they remain the most trusted source of information for parents making vaccine decisions.”
Jennifer Miao, MD, is a cardiology physician fellow at Yale School of Medicine/Yale New Haven Hospital and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.