It's so easy to get overwhelmed by the constant flow of information coming in about the COVID-19 vaccine. The good news is that it's not just speculation anymore. It's actually being rolled out. SO, for the first time in this awful situation, there may be a real end in sight. That means, we, as parents, need to help our kiddos understand the current state of the pandemic and inform them about what the vaccine means for our community. This will allow them to arm themselves with proper information, so they aren't bogged down by any false hope that the virus is gone or assumptions that a vaccine equals an immediate return to normal.
Our friends over at VeryWell Family along with Ashley Wood, RN, BSN, and contributor at Demystifying Your Health, have answered a few tough questions for you and your children. Just make sure when you sit them down to chat, you're patient, attentive, and understanding of their fears, confusion, and persistent eagerness to return to normal.
Is it safe?
Without doubt, the COVID-19 vaccine has been pushed out faster than any vaccine in history. And while kids may not fully understand that, they’ve probably heard plenty of talk about it. "It’s important to share that while the development process has been quick, it has been done safely," says Wood. "All possible measures have been taken to ensure that no harm will come to those who take it."
Safety trials have still taken place, just on an accelerated timeline. What’s more, vaccines to treat similar strains of coronavirus have been in the works for many years, so even the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t an entirely new
When can I get it?
This is a tough question to answer since there are many different factors to consider. The CDC has recommended that initial supplies of the vaccine be allocated to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities, followed by the following groups:
Frontline essential workers
People aged 75 and older
People aged 65-74 years
People aged 16-64 years with underlying medical conditions
Other essential workers
Once there is more availability, the CDC will provide guidelines about who should be vaccinated next.
Additionally, it is only in the last couple months that clinical trials began testing the vaccine on children 12 and older. Until more trials and more data are available regarding the effects and efficacy of the vaccine on young children, kids will not be eligible to take a vaccine. If your child has no health concerns that could increase susceptibility to COVID symptoms, their wait may be even longer.
That’s a long time for pandemic-weary kids to wait, especially considering how eager most little ones are to enjoy friends, activities, and normal life again. This is where you can take the opportunity to talk about empathy and selflessness.
When talking to your kids about the COVID vaccine, it’s essential to go over why following safety protocols, like social distancing and mask-wearing, are still really important if we truly want to move past this pandemic
— ASHLEY WOOD, RN, BSN
Highlight how hard healthcare workers have had to work during the pandemic, and talk about how many have themselves gotten sick with COVID or put their families at risk. Discuss how they’ve worked double shifts with few breaks and watched lots of people struggle with the illness, often without their families by their side.
These workers, along with the elderly—who are most at risk of dying from COVID—clearly deserve to receive the vaccination first. Encourage your child to demonstrate a spirit of selflessness while they wait, putting others before themselves.
Will it end the pandemic?
Another loaded question, and a difficult one to answer. “We have to help our kids avoid getting their hopes up too much about the vaccine,” Wood says. “Even when a fully functional vaccine is successfully distributed to everyone who wants it, there will still be many people who will avoid it, and of course there may still be some margin of error,” she explains.
When talking to your kids about whether or not the COVID vaccine will end the pandemic, reassure them that it’s good news to be hopeful about, but also be realistic about the results as well.
You can even compare the situation to a time in the past when your kids had to wait for something they wanted, be it a new video game or the start of a family trip. Nobody likes to wait, but it's worth it for the reward at the end.
Are there side effects?
There’s no need for kids to fear this. After all, any vaccine can have mild side effects, including ones your child has already received. While there have been reports of side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, most have been mild. But only time will tell whether kids face different or more severe side effects. It’s best to reassure your kids that any side effects likely won’t be much of an issue, especially if they’re otherwise healthy.