University Health doctor sorts through myths, concerns about COVID-19 vaccines for children

Dr. Mandie Svatek is a pediatric specialist at University Hospital

SAN ANTONIO – With the Food and Drug Administration authorizing a COVID-19 booster shot for healthy 5- to 11-year-olds, some parents may have questions or concerns about the vaccine.

University Health pediatric specialist, Dr. Mandie Svatek, answered some commonly asked questions as COVID cases across the U.S. and here in Bexar County begin to rise again.

I thought children couldn’t catch COVID-19, so why should they get vaccinated?

Svatek: “So we find that anybody can catch COVID. The biggest thing is that we saw COVID affect adults much more aggressively. But still, COVID can give a spectrum of symptoms in children. Some may be asymptomatic and some can have severe symptoms and end up hospitalized and some can die from COVID. And so when you see that spectrum, we understand that some children that are positive for COVID may not show symptoms, while others may.”

If my child has already had COVID-19, do they still need to be vaccinated?

Svatek: “It’s extremely important to still vaccinate your child. Vaccines have proven long-term to show a continued immune response. If you actually get a disease process, that immune response in other illnesses has waned, and they’re finding that is very similar with COVID. So it’s important that you receive a vaccine to give you much more long-term response and defense against future COVID disease.”

Will the COVID-19 vaccine protect my child against future variants?

Svatek: “We hope that the vaccine will continue to protect against future variants. But as things change, that’s where they are continuing to look at the science and to assure that those vaccines are continuing to be effective. So currently, the COVID vaccine still shows that in comparison to the flu vaccine, that it is more effective. As we move along, we need to still continue to understand that and to continue to look at further approval, perhaps for further changes in those vaccines, to still create that appropriate immune response.”

What kind of side effects could my child have from the COVID-19 vaccine and how should we treat them?

Svatek: “So commonly what they’ve seen in studies is very similar side effects in comparison to adults after they receive the vaccine, but sometimes less. Pain in the arm is one of the more common results of receiving the COVID vaccine. You can also develop fever, fatigue. Those are mainly the common symptoms. Obviously, if they’re having fever, you can treat them with Tylenol and you can just monitor them. And we have a safe vaccine reporting system should they have other side effects, that way those can be reported and recorded so the CDC and the FDA can look at those.”

Why is it important for children to receive their COVID-19 booster?

Svatek: “So as you received two doses of the vaccine, sometimes your immune response can wane. And as new variants come in, you still want to protect your body. So it’s important that that booster dose has still shown to be effective at preventing deaths and hospitalizations. And so you want to continue to initiate that appropriate immune response, so you get that appropriate response the next time another variant comes in.”

Could vaccinating my child before they reach puberty affect their development or future fertility?

Svatek: “Vaccinating your child has not been found to affect fertility or future development. And it’s important to understand that this vaccine does not affect the DNA in an individual. It does not go into the nucleus of any cells. It’s an RNA vaccine that helps the body produce a defense against that spike protein on COVID.”

Can my child receive other vaccinations when they get their COVID-19 vaccine?

Svatek: “The CDC says that it is okay to give that COVID vaccine with other vaccines. You want to assure that you remain on the appropriate schedule to protect your child from the appropriate diseases. And so there haven’t been any conflicts with receiving the COVID vaccine on top of other vaccines.”

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About the Author:

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 20 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.