As the COVID-19 vaccines become available for children ages 5 to 11, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is urging caretakers and families to get vaccinated and take the necessary steps to protect children during the upcoming holiday and flu season.
“Emergency physicians around the country continue to see how dangerous COVID-19 infection can be in patients of all ages, especially for those who are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Gillian Schmitz, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Thankfully, the vaccines are safe, effective and now they’re available. Vaccinating your kids is one of the best ways to protect your family and help us beat the virus.”
Children are less likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19 than adults, but the risks from COVID are still significant, ACEP representatives emphasized. About 1.9 million children ages 5 to 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). There have been about 8,300 hospitalized, with a third needing intensive care and at least 94 deaths in that age group. The CDC recommends that everyone 5 or older get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Emergency physicians reassured caretakers that the available vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccine development was not rushed, they said, and these products follow a strict process to meet all the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) safety measures. Like the adult vaccine, very few people experience side effects. The most common side effects documented during extensive safety procedures were mild and manageable at home, including a sore arm, redness near the inject site or fatigue.
Everyone can takes steps to protect each other by getting vaccinated and following local guidelines, social distancing and covering their face. The CDC recommends that caretakers monitor a child’s close contact with others and take steps to protect a child if anyone in the household becomes sick or has symptoms of COVID-19. That can include keeping a child at home and seeking appropriate care if a child becomes ill. Both children and adults can spread the virus even if they are asymptomatic.
For added protection during what could be a dangerous flu season, emergency physicians encourage caretakers and children to get vaccinated against both COVID-19 and flu. It is safe to get a flu shot and a COVID vaccine at the same time, and it is not too late to get a flu shot in time for the onset of colder weather and a busy holiday season.
As caretakers monitor children for symptoms of COVID-19, such as a high fever, sore throat, cough, stomachache, or headache, it is critical to know when to go to the emergency department, whether it is for COVID-19 or any other illness or injury.
“There are signs of an emergency that should never be ignored,” said Schmitz. “Emergency physicians are trained to handle all kinds of health scares, and everyone can be sure that the emergency department is the safest place to be, for patients of any age, when they are having a medical emergency.”