Now that our littlest kids under 5 can finally get the COVID-19 vaccine, here's how to best prepare. It's easier than you think!
After months and months of waiting, parents with kids younger than 5 years old can now breathe a little easier — the FDA has finally approved a COVID vaccine for children 6 months and older. And while the CDC is recommending parents jump on this opportunity as quickly as possible, sadly, like with all previous COVID vaccine releases, not everyone is on-board. A recent study showed that only one in five parents will vaccinate their younger children upon this dose’s release, despite the troubling research on the long-term effects of COVID in children.
Pro-vaccine and feel like crying at that number? You’re not alone. Take heart, though: Roughly 20% of parents are still ready to step up and get their kiddos vaccinated. If you’re part of that 20%, you’ll want to be prepared. What should you know about the new dosing schedule for COVID-19 and kids under 5? What can you do to prep your little buggers before their shot? How can you keep them happy during the experience? And how do you deal with any after-effects of the COVID vaccine?
If you’re preparing to vaccinate a younger child, you need all the details.
What should you know about the “new” COVID vaccine?
First and foremost, let’s clear up one big fact that seems to have gotten lost in translation: There’s nothing new about this vaccine. Researchers were already working on similar vaccines before the specific COVID-19 strain reared its ugly head. Once they isolated what would work best for COVID-19, they sent it for trials, after which it was approved and released to the general public.
As the vaccine has been released for younger and younger patients, nothing about the structure of the vaccine has changed. Instead, they were simply testing the correct dosage. You might think of this like you do any other medicine. You wouldn’t give your toddler an adult-sized dose of cold medicine, would you?
In clinical trials of the COVID vaccine for kids under 5, the vaccine was well tolerated with no new safety issues signaled — for both Pfizer and Moderna. The majority of the side effects were mild to moderate, with no cases reported of myocarditis or pericarditis.
Your child’s vaccine schedule will look different than yours.
The CDC has posted a very handy flowchart. Here’s the breakdown for kids under 5:
Pfizer/BioNTech — Children under 5 receive (3) three-microgram doses. The second dose comes three to eight weeks after the first dose. The third shot is given eight weeks after the second.
Moderna — Children under 5 receive (2) 25-microgram doses. Your child should receive the second dose four to eight weeks after the first shot.
How do you prepare your young child for the COVID vaccine?
How to Talk About It
How you prepare or warn your child for their COVID vaccine will depend greatly on how you prep them for other shots. In many families, speaking about shots days ahead of a doctor’s appointment will only lead to anxiety and a meltdown at the doctor’s office. Sometimes it’s best just to wait until you’re already there to say something as simple as, “The nurse is going to give you a shot today.”
If your child is already familiar with shots and is concerned about the pain, you can talk about how it might hurt for a moment and that it’s OK to cry. You can also share with them that you’ve had the shot, too. If your child is more familiar with everything that has been happening for the last two years, you can talk about that. Something simple will do it. Try, “You’re getting the same shot Mommy, Daddy, and Sissy got. We all get shots to help keep everyone safe.”
What to Bring to the Appointment
- Your ID and your child’s insurance card
- A lovey: Sometimes holding a favorite stuffed friend can help littles be brave.
- A fun bandaid: Many doctor’s offices will keep these on hand. But, it never hurts to offer one before they begin, just in case. We all know the magic of a fun bandage!
- Distraction: You’ll need to wait 15-30 minutes after the shot. A tablet, coloring book, or other fun toys will go a long way in making the time breeze by.
- Tylenol/Motrin/Ibuprofen: Wait until after the shot, per CDC recommendations, but consider giving your kiddo some pain reliever directly afterward. You might remember your arm hurt for a while after your shot.
What happens after their shot?
Just like with grown-up doses of the COVID vaccine, reactions to the shot vary wildly. For many people, a few days with a sore arm is their biggest issue. Others might experience a day or two of cold/flu symptoms.
Sometimes younger children deal with fewer side effects than teenagers or young adults regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. Side effects sometimes include tiredness, fever, headache, muscle ache, irritability, and loss of appetite. These symptoms are just the body's way of protecting itself, and some kids may not experience any side effects at all.
One benefit of vaccinating your younger children is that they’re most likely getting other vaccines more regularly still. You already know how they react post-shot. For instance, you probably already know if your child has some extra gross diapers for a day or two or if they’re just extra cuddly that day.
Here are a few other suggestions that can help with post-vaccine issues and concerns, though:
- Read the pamphlet. Knowing what issues are “common” and what issues warrant a call to a medical professional will keep your anxiety low. That calmness will spread to your child.
- Stock up on essentials. From diapers and wipes (if you’re still doing those) to butt paste, pain reliever, and Pedialyte. Think of everything you could need on hand for a sick day with your kiddo and ensure you have them.
- Let go of screen time. Nothing is worse than feeling awful and then having someone take away your distraction. On the off-chance your child ends up with cold/flu symptoms, let them have a little more time zoning out on their tablets or in front of the television.
- Bring out the magic. Fun bandages, cute ice packs, popsicles, mommy kisses... you know the stuff that makes your kiddo smile on a bad day. Throw caution to the wind and use it all.
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