Why Should Children Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Dr. Paul Offit discusses the relative differences in rates of COVID-19 among children and adults, describes why we can be assured that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children, and explains why it remains important for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19.


Why should children get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. It is Thursday, December 1st, 2022. I think one of the most common questions I get asked is, do I really need to vaccinate my child? It doesn't seem that children really suffer this disease nearly as much as adults, and they seem to do well, so why expose them to a vaccine?

And the answer is this, while it is true that you are 1,000-fold more likely to die of this disease, COVID, if you're over 65 than if you're under 18; nonetheless, children can still suffer and be hospitalized and die. There's been an estimated 1,500 deaths in children less than 18 years of age. Certainly, tens of thousands of children have been hospitalized, and most of those children actually who are hospitalized didn't have any known health problems that would cause them to have been at higher risk of severe disease. So, it's certainly worth getting your child vaccinated.

Now, I think the reasonable question that parents can ask is, how do we know the vaccine is safe for children? Well, the vaccine now has been given to millions of children, and so we have an excellent record then of how safe it can be. And although the vaccine can rarely cause a mild, short-lived, transient inflammation of the heart muscle, know that the virus does that as well to a much more severe degree.

I would say that typically when you have a new medical innovation, and that is certainly true here, the mRNA vaccines that we use now to vaccinate children are a novel technology, and whenever you have a novel technology, historically, there's often a human price to pay. I would say that what we've found here is that you have a high level of protection certainly against severe disease and a very, very small, rare risk, which appears to be transient and short-lived, of this so-called myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle. So, I certainly think it is worthwhile for children to get vaccinated.

And then I think the question moving forward is, will they need to be boosted a year from now, two years from now, five years from now? And hopefully, the CDC will provide us with the kinds of answers that allow us to figure out when or whether those children will need to be boosted in the future.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Dec 16, 2022