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Delaware doctor Dr. Charmaine Wright, M.D., MSHP, answers parents’ questions about getting COVID-19 vaccines and boosters for their children.
It’s back to school season–which means it’s also vaccine season. With Delaware children going back to school and spending more time together in enclosed spaces, it’s important for parents to stay educated on the best ways to keep their children safe.
Charmaine Wright, M.D., MSHP, is the Director of ChristianaCare’s Center for Special Health Care Needs. She, along with many experts in the medical field, realize that as time goes on and the pandemic moves from the forefront of our minds, some Delawareans–especially parents–have unanswered questions about the vaccine and booster options for their children.
Dr. Wright took the time to answer a few common questions from the perspective of an experienced practitioner.
Can anyone get the COVID-19 vaccine?
All Delawareans six months of age and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Right now, if you’re six months of age or older, you have the option of either Pfizer or Moderna, equally safe and effective. Recently, if you’re 12 years and older, you can also utilize the Novovax vaccine.
Where can I (or my child) receive a vaccine?
In terms of where you can receive your vaccine, pharmacies, pediatricians, primary care providers, department of public health clinics and federally qualified health centers are all participating in vaccinating children.
Visit the Delaware “Where Can I Get My Vaccine?” page to find a provider near you.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for my child?
The vaccine is safe for your child. Not only have there been clinical trials looking through what happens when kids receive the vaccine, [but] these trials also did include children who have special healthcare needs and disabilities. About 20% of the kids in trials have a disability.
So, this should be reassuring to families that we are able to effectively administer the vaccine. There are millions of kids in the U.S. who are vaccinated already, and there are no serious safety concerns identified.
We have also gone through a lot of follow-up in these trials to track how long after vaccines we can see an effect, and if there are any longer-term side effects. The answer is that yes, it is safe, and yes, it is effective.
From the beginning of the pandemic to now is a completely different story of how much destruction and how much illness can come about from COVID-19. Right now, getting the vaccine should provide comfort and safety to families.
We know that those with disabilities have a higher risk of comorbidity and morbidity (serious illness or death) that can result from a COVID infection itself. For these reasons, it is safe and also a good idea to make sure that your loved ones are vaccinated.
What about the known side effects?
I have had thousands of patients who have done very well with COVID-19 vaccination. Here’s what I hear, and what I myself have experienced.
The COVID-19 vaccine is meant to rev up your immune system. [It is] meant to get your body ready to fight the infection if it ever sees it. So, that process is sometimes not that comfortable. There can be an arm that hurts, body aches, a low-grade fever or a headache.
These side effects are expected because it is what your immune system feels like when it’s working. But they’re also really short-lived. For most people who have these side effects, they last for one or two days. And then you wake up and it’s as if you never had a vaccine.
The idea is that we’re comfortable with that side-effect profile because we expect it and we know why it’s happening. You can feel free to use Tylenol, Motrin or drink some extra fluids to make that period a little easier, but those are the known side effects from every vaccination that we administer. We know that the COVID-19 vaccine is no different. It is so good at preparing our immune system that, yes, there are individuals (about 30%) who will have some side effects from it.
However, there are no long-term side effects that we know about, and the effectiveness of the vaccine is so well-studied that we highly recommend getting vaccinated, even in the face of some of the minor discomforts that can occur in the days following vaccination.
What are the latest recommendations on when to get a booster?
Boosting is important. Boosting keeps antibody levels high so we can decrease the amount of COVID-19 that’s circulating in our communities. With our loved ones going back to school and back to fall activities, boosting is a very good idea.
All children over five should get a booster. Now, let’s talk a little bit about what kind of booster. Right now there’s an updated booster, and many pharmacies are starting to carry this booster. There are two recipes in the same shot, so you get the protection of the original COVID, but you also get protection from the variants that have been circulating for nine months now, and they’re not going anywhere.
Getting boosted with the updated vaccine is a great way to live with COVID, as we know that people continue to have COVID infections in our communities.
The Pfizer updated booster is available for anyone 12 and up, and the Moderna updated booster is available for anyone 18 and up. In terms of when you should get the updated booster, you can get it two months after your last booster. If you’re an individual who moved forward with getting your first booster in the spring, you are certainly ready to get your updated booster now.
Some really great news that we are hearing is that since there are no new variants on the horizon, this updated booster is going to last us some time–maybe even as long as a full year, like our flu shots do.
If you have recently had a COVID-19 infection, then as long as you are out of isolation, up through three months after your infection, that’s the recommended time to move forward with this updated booster.
To learn more about you or your child’s eligibility to get an updated booster, visit the CDC’s vaccine page and scroll down to use the tool to find your eligibility.