Cedars-Sinai’s COVID-19 vaccine drive-thru is now open to children 5 and older, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective in children.
The CDC reported that, similar to the benefits for adults, the COVID-19 vaccine is effective at protecting school-age children from serious illness or hospitalization from COVID-19.
“This is excellent news and I couldn’t be more supportive of this approval for our children,” said Priya Soni, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cedars-Sinai. “The calculation for me is very straightforward–though we are leaving the worst part of the delta surge behind us–still, over 1,000 Americans die each day of COVID-19. And thus, this virus continues to remain a threat to us.”
Like adults, a child who is infected can transmit the coronavirus to others, even if the child has mild symptoms. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can protect not only children but those around as well, including family members and friends who may be immunocompromised and vulnerable to severe illness, especially as we head into the holiday season.
Although a COVID-19 infection is often milder in children than in adults, some children can get severe lung infections, become very sick and require hospitalization. This is especially true of the delta strain and could become more common if other, more dangerous variants emerge.
More than 700 children, 18 years old and younger, have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Soni said 196 of those children were in the 5- to 11-year-old age group.
“This means that COVID-19 is now considered a ‘Top 10’ cause of death in children within this key 5- to-11-year-old age group, far surpassing mortality rates of other vaccine-preventable illnesses, including pediatric deaths related to prior influenza seasons,” she said.
Similar to other shots, the Pfizer-BioNTech shot can cause minor side effects like pain, swelling and redness at the injection site, headaches, chills, muscle pain and fatigue. A small subset of patients may experience temporary lymph node swelling. Mild-to-moderate side effects typically resolve in one to two days. But many who get the shot report no side effects.
In very rare cases, severe allergic reactions have occurred, but medical personnel are trained to monitor for these reactions.
“We are going to gain more knowledge as we go on vaccinating pediatric patients, and that is great. However, we know enough now to be confident that the pros of vaccinating in this age group far outweigh the risks,” said Soni. “By vaccinating our children, we can change the course of this pandemic. And children deserve protection from this horrible disease.”
The children’s vaccine is the same as the vaccine given to adults, containing1/3 of the dose. The vaccine is given in a two-shot series, 21 days apart. The vaccine can be co-administered with other routine childhood immunizations.
How to Schedule
The vaccine is available for children 5 and older by appointment only at the Cedars-Sinai drive-through clinic beginning Thursday, Nov. 4 from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Vaccine appointments can be made by:
Visiting the California Department of Public Health’s My Turn website to find out where the vaccine is available near you.
Calling 1-855-427-5465 and asking to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.
Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 can help stop other variants from emerging. When enough people get vaccinated, it reduces the virus’ ability to mutate into new variants that could be even more dangerous. The virus transmits easily among unvaccinated people, giving new variants a chance to emerge. To help stop this pandemic, eligible people should get vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccines went through the same safety testing and were required to meet the same standards as other vaccines-like those for chickenpox and polio-that have been widely given to children for many years and are known to be safe and effective.
“The facts are, the COVID-19 vaccine is like other vaccines, except they have been studied more closely than any other vaccine we have ever given,” Soni said. “Parents should feel confident to provide protection for their children against the unknowns of a severe infection, hospitalization and post-COVID sequelae as well, including multisystem inflammatory disease in children (MIS-C).”