Is Cincinnati Children's Scheduling COVID Vaccinations?
Yes, but doses are limited and appointment times fill up quickly. Learn more.
When Will a COVID Vaccine Be Available for Children?
Currently, the FDA has approved an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 years of age and above and 18 years of age and above for the Moderna vaccine. On the whole, vaccination through the EUA is targeting high-risk adults. However, teens over 16 years of age who have intellectual or developmental disabilities and medical concerns are eligible now for vaccination through the EUA in Ohio.
> Watch Video: Vaccinating the Vulnerable
Pfizer has completed a clinical trial for kids 12-15 years of age and soon will start trials in younger children. Other vaccine manufacturers, including Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, also are planning COVID-19 vaccine trials in children. The FDA is not allowed to license a vaccine until they have data for the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in the population for which it would be used. Thus, our best guess is that vaccine for kids under 12 years of age won’t be licensed until sometime in late 2021 or early 2022.
Will There Be Priority Grouping for Teens and Children for the Vaccine for Those Who Have Lung, Heart and Chronic Conditions?
We do not know yet how Ohio will group and prioritize children for vaccine, since it will likely still be a while before it is authorized. It is reasonable to think that rollout for adolescents and children will be similar to what we are seeing now for older teens and adults. We are working closely with the state to advocate for our patients and help them as they define and prioritize groups of people. We will continue to do that until vaccines are available for everyone who wants them.
What Can We Do in the Meantime to Protect Kids, Especially Those Who Have Compromised Immune Systems or Chronic Conditions?
The first thing you can do is ensure everyone in your family has a flu vaccine this year. They are available at primary care offices and also at pharmacies for walk-in patients. We also recommend that the adults who spend time with your children get a COVID vaccine as each person becomes eligible. Vaccinating the people around a vulnerable person is called cocooning, and it is a valuable tool to use as more adults and teens become eligible to receive vaccine. Until vaccines are available, continuing safe distancing, using masks and frequent hand washing are very effective ways to decrease your risk of getting COVID.
If Kids Don’t Get That Sick from COVID, Why Will They Need to Get Vaccinated?
As of Jan. 28, 2021, in the US, nearly 2.82 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 with over 140,000 new child COVID-19 cases reported the last week of January. Currently, children are being infected with COVID at basically the same rate as adults. And thankfully, while the infection is less likely to be severe in children; as of Jan 28, 2021, 11,192 children have been hospitalized for COVID-related illnesses and 215 have died.
The vaccine is important for the health and safety of children, but also to prevent them from spreading the disease to adults such as parents, grandparents and teachers. Vaccines are going to be critical to get rid of the pandemic. It’s much safer to get the vaccine than to contract the disease.
Is COVID Vaccine Currently Available?
Two COVID vaccines are available now. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for people 16 years old and above. Moderna’s COVID vaccine has been approved for people 18 and older. States are working now to distribute the vaccines to vulnerable populations as quickly as possible. Two additional vaccines are still in the testing and authorization process and likely will be given EUA status in the next few weeks. This will be a welcome addition and expand our vaccine supply.
How Is the Vaccine Administered?
Depending on the vaccine, it is provided as a one- or two-dose series of shots. For the two-dose regimen, the second dose is given three to four weeks after the first dose. It is important to receive the entire vaccine series and to receive the same vaccine for each dose (i.e., two doses of Pfizer or two doses of Moderna, not one dose of Pfizer and one dose of Moderna).
Are the Vaccines Safe?
Yes. Both the authorized Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as the two additional vaccines that are in development, have shown a good safety profile during their clinical trials.
Do the Vaccines Have Side Effects?
Most of the people who have received the COVID-19 vaccines have had few to no side effects, but some people have experienced headaches, fever and injection-site pain for a few days after receiving it. These side effects are temporary and are a sign that the vaccine is working. There is also evidence that some people will have more side effects with the second dose than with the first.
While we would prefer that no one who received the vaccine had any side effects, we think the benefit of protection against a potentially lethal virus FAR outweighs the possible risks of the vaccine.
Should Immunocompromised Individuals Get Vaccinated?
Yes. As vaccine is available for new groups of people, we encourage everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine. These vaccines don’t contain a live virus, and the vaccines cannot give you COVID. So even if you are immunocompromised, there is no reason to not get vaccinated. If there is any question about the safety of vaccine related to an individual’s health history, we encourage you to talk to your doctor.
If I Get the First Dose of One Vaccine, Does It Matter If I Get a Second Dose of a Vaccine from a Different Company?
To be on the safe side, we recommend getting the same vaccine for both doses, if possible.
How Long Will Immunity Last after I Get the Vaccine?
At this time, we don’t know. Some vaccines, such as those against hepatitis and measles, seem to last a lifetime in most people. Others, like the flu vaccine, must be given annually. It is possible that a COVID vaccination could last many years, but more research is needed to know how often people will need vaccination to maintain protection against the virus.
Who Got the First Doses of the Vaccine?
The vaccine has been offered to front-line healthcare workers – along with people who live in long-term healthcare facilities – because those groups are at highest risk. That is now being followed by seniors, teachers, people with developmental or intellectual disabilities and other high-risk conditions. As more vaccine supply is available, more people in the approved age group (16-plus for Pfizer and 18-plus for Moderna) will be eligible. There is hope that by the start of the next school year, we could have vaccines for adolescents and even younger children.
Are There Any Concerns Regarding Long-Term Reproductive Side Effects?
No, there are no long-term effects on fertility.
If You Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding, Should You Get the Vaccine?
Yes. The American College of Gynecology recommended that women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding mothers get the vaccine when they become eligible.
How Many People Need to Receive the Vaccine before It Would Be Safe to Go Back to Normal Life?
Return to “normal” life will be based on the number of new cases of COVID that are occurring. Having a high percentage of people being vaccinated will speed our return to normalcy.
The Overall Fatality Rate for COVID Is around 2%. Why Not Just Open Everything Up and Take Our Chances with Getting Infected Since Most People Will Survive Anyway?
Taking this route would be one way of getting us to herd immunity, but it would come with a hefty price. While a 2% fatality rate may sound small, if you apply it to the entire population, you are talking about 5 million to 10 million people who would die from COVID. Along with overwhelming our healthcare systems, which are already strained, and decimating the economy, it would result in a lot of human suffering and exact a huge emotional toll on families faced with losing loved ones. The goal of science is to get us to immunity with a lot less morbidity and mortality.
Can I Get COVID-19 from the Vaccine?
No. The vaccines prompt our body to make a piece of the virus called a spike protein. The body then makes antibodies to the spike protein designed to protect people against COVID-19 should they be exposed to the virus. Because the vaccine does not contain the whole virus, it is impossible to get COVID-19 by receiving it.
How Do COVID Vaccines Work?
The spike protein on the outside of COVID-19 is what allows the virus to attach to our cells and start an infection. If your body can prevent the spike protein from attaching to our cells, then the virus can’t make us sick. So, the goal of all the COVID-19 vaccines is to make antibodies against the spike protein. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use pure spike gene mRNA to get our body to start the immune response. AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines use a common virus called adenovirus to bring the spike protein gene into our body and start the immune response.
Which COVID Vaccines Have Been Tested in Clinical Trials at Cincinnati Children’s?
Cincinnati Children’s has helped conduct the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine candidate in ages 12-15, 16-17 and adults, as well as the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate in adults.
How Were These Vaccines Developed and Approved So Quickly?
Things have moved faster than normal, but we have done everything correctly. The FDA was able to approve an emergency use authorization for Pfizer and Moderna based on their good safety and efficacy profile. We have been very careful in monitoring safety and have taken no short cuts in evaluating the vaccines at Cincinnati Children’s. Almost 40,000 people enrolled in Pfizer nationwide, over 30,000 enrolled in Moderna and close to 30,000 for both Janssen and AstraZeneca. Thus, we will have a lot of safety data before the other vaccines are licensed. It will be important, though, that opinion leaders in all our communities understand about the vaccines and the need for everyone to receive vaccine. The opinion leaders can help share the word with their communities.
Did the Clinical Trials Use Placebo? And If So, What Was the Placebo Substance?
Yes, all the COVID-19 vaccine trials used a placebo (a salt-water solution). It was necessary to use a placebo to be able to tell how well the vaccines prevent COVID. Once the study question was answered, the blinds have been broken (we will look to see who received vaccine and who received placebo). Those who received placebo will be offered vaccine. Designing the study in this manner will allow us to answer the study question and have the study be as safe as possible.
Do COVID Vaccines Alter the DNA of the Person Who Receives the Vaccine?
The vaccines DO NOT change your DNA. For all four COVID vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen), the main function is to bring messenger RNA, also known as mRNA, into a part of our cell called the cytoplasm. The genetic material known as DNA is in the nucleus of our cells. There is a wall around the nucleus that prevents RNA from getting into the nucleus. Thus, the vaccines have no ability to change our DNA. Also, the mRNA used in these vaccines lasts in our cytoplasm for only a few days, and then our body destroys it. So, the mRNA does its job of having our body make a harmless piece of the spike protein in COVID-19, and then our body starts an immune response against the spike protein. This immune response is what protects us against being infected by COVID-19.
Do Any of the Vaccines Use Human Stem Cells?
None of the vaccines contain human cells. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are pure mRNA that was made in the lab. This process does not use any cells at all. The AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines use an adenovirus to bring the spike protein gene to our cells. Viruses need to grow in cells. After the adenovirus used in the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are grown, the virus is collected from the cells and purified. So there ONLY is virus, NO human cells, in the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccine.
What Are the Demographics of Participants in COVID Vaccine Trials at Cincinnati Children’s?
About 50% of our participants are 60 or older. About 20% of participants are self-identified as African-American or Hispanic. The racial distribution is equivalent to our demographics in Cincinnati. We have enrolled across the socio-economic spectrum.
Reviewed by Robert Frenck Jr., MD, and Hector Wong, MD