• While serious complications from COVID-19 remain low for children, cases in kids increased exponentially the first week of September.
  • Getting kids vaccinated not only keeps them safe from COVID-19, but also protects others in their home and community.
  • Vaccination can help stop new and more dangerous COVID-19 variants from emerging.

If you’ve been holding off getting your child vaccinated, now might be the time to reconsider.

While data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association shows that hospitalizations and deaths in children from COVID-19 are uncommon, as of Sept. 2, over 5 million kids have tested positive for COVID-19.

Moreover, the AAP reports that cases in children have increased exponentially, with over 750,000 cases added between August 5 and Sept. 2.

“As more contagious variants are spreading, a larger number of younger people are becoming ill and hospitalized from COVID-19. Some are also experiencing long-term health problems after infection, such as difficulty breathing, headaches, fatigue, and muscle and joint pains,” Hannah Newman, director of epidemiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Healthline.

While all the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still unknown, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that some people experience new or ongoing symptoms that can last for weeks or months after they’ve acquired the virus.

Avoiding the virus is the best way to prevent kids from experiencing long-term effects. As children return to school and increase their social circles, this creates more opportunities for coronavirus transmission.

“If you are on the fence about vaccination, now is the time to look at the data, trust science, and make the choice that will best protect your child, your family, as well as the other children and vulnerable adults around them… Vaccination is the best way to achieve this… It also helps preserve in-person learning and prevent future lockdowns should we see more surge,” she said.

Note that vaccinations in children are strongly supported by major groups — including the AAP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the CDC — whose main objective is protecting health and keeping kids healthy.

The following are six reasons why medical experts say parents should get their children vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.

On May 10, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include kids 12 to 15 years old.

The authorization was based on study results from a Phase 3 trial of children in this age group. During the trial of 2,260 adolescents, half received the Pfizer vaccine, and the other half received a saltwater placebo.

The results showed that the vaccinated group of kids experienced an immune response that was stronger than that in vaccinated 16- to 25-year-olds enrolled in an earlier study. Also, of all the participants, 16 experienced symptomatic cases of COVID-19, and all of those cases were kids who received the placebo, not the vaccine.

“The scientific data shows that a child that is not vaccinated has a significantly higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms than a child that is vaccinated,” Dr. Steven Abelowitz, regional medical director of Coastal Kids Pediatrics, told Healthline.

For instance, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a rare but serious condition in which an immune response causes inflammation in different parts of the body. The condition can cause low blood pressure, coronary artery aneurysms, and heart inflammation across all ages.

“The CDC recognizes it as a symptom of children who have had COVID (even in asymptomatic and/or mild cases), and the (World Health Organization) WHO recognizes the link and even issued a global warning… The best way you can protect children from MIS-C is to prevent acquisition of the virus itself, and vaccination is the proven most effective way to do just that,” said Newman.

Research also shows that side effects from the vaccine are mild and include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever, and joint pain.

Since Pfizer received authorization, 12.4 million children and adolescents under 17 years old have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and over 9.6 million have completed the 2-dose course.

All providers who administer the vaccines are required to report serious adverse events (like allergic reactions) to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a national early warning system to detect possible safety problems in U.S.-licensed vaccines.

“What we know for certain is that the risk of COVID-19 infection far outweighs any potential risk of the vaccine. We have real-world evidence to prove this,” said Newman. “I will take the minuscule risk of a minor, short-term vaccine side effect over the serious health consequences that real-world evidence has shown from the virus itself, any day. It’s hard to argue with those odds.”

She added that the rules of science do not allow scientists to say that long-term effects can never happen. However, the available evidence proves that the vaccines will not cause long-term harm.

“What we do know, however, is that there is real-world evidence today of serious adverse outcomes due to the COVID-19 virus, and we don’t fully know yet what this could mean in the months and years to come,” Newman said.

Some parents have concerns about reports of myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart in some kids after receiving the vaccine.

However, according to the CDC, for every million doses given, there have been:

  • 67 cases of heart inflammation in boys 12 to 17 years old
  • 9 cases in girls 12 to 17 years old

Because a child who is not vaccinated is more likely to spread COVID-19 than a vaccinated child, an unvaccinated child puts others in their household and community at risk, especially older adults and those with underlying health conditions, Abelowitz says.

“Unvaccinated children, who are more likely to get infected, contribute to the larger spread of COVID-19 throughout the community, leading to increased overall cases and pressure on hospital capacity,” he said.

If a community has low vaccination rates, it’s much easier for the virus to spread and lead to an outbreak.

“Data show that children play a significant role in COVID-19 transmission, and the concern is growing as new and more contagious variants such as Delta emerge. When enough people (including children and adolescents) are vaccinated, it makes it much harder for the virus to spread from person to person, and the entire community is less likely to get sick,” said Newman.

This is where the idea of “herd immunity” comes into play, where the entire community, including those who can’t get the vaccine or don’t qualify for it, is protected by the actions of the majority.

A historic example of herd immunity via vaccination occurred with the pneumococcal vaccine, which prevents some cases of pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis.

“This is a common disease in young children but is more dangerous in older adults, who are most at risk for serious complications,” said Newman.

When the pneumococcal vaccine was approved for children, the number of hospitalized adults decreased, she says.

“We could see the direct link between vaccinating infants and the protection of older adults from the spread of serious infection before there was a vaccine available for that group,” she added.

Vaccination can help stop new and more dangerous variants from emerging. Each time a virus replicates, there is a chance for replication “errors” or mutations.

“We’ve already seen more contagious variants, such as Delta, spread through our communities. Limiting the number of bodies infected limits the number of viral replication and therefore limits the chances we will see more contagious variants emerge that could affect larger numbers of people,” said Newman.

Although children are less likely to end up in the hospital due to COVID-19 complications, getting vaccinated makes them less likely to spread COVID to people who could end up in the hospital.

For instance, an influx of patients in hospitals creates overcrowding, long wait times, and medical staff turning away patients due to lack of beds. In some cases, numbers are so high that hospitals have to create temporary surge beds in hallways.

When other hospitals in the same area are also at capacity, this creates an even more dire situation, leading to transfers across long distances, cities, and states when a patient needs care, notes Newman.

“Each COVID-19 case that requires hospitalization also takes away from those affected by car crashes, cancer, and other serious illnesses. Each and every hospitalization and pediatric death is a tragedy and especially hard to swallow when preventable,” she said.

Everyone can agree that the pandemic has disrupted life and put a strain on children and adolescents’ mental, emotional, and social health.

“All activities are safer once someone is fully vaccinated, and getting the vaccine helps to allow your child to return to doing some of the things considered normal before the start of the pandemic, such as not having to wear a mask or social distance in some settings, (except when recommended by rule or law), traveling, etc.,” said Newman.