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Healthwise Maui

Q: Should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Michael Shea, Intensivist and Chief Medical Director, Maui Health: The COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children as young as 5 years old, and many families are wondering if their child should get the shot. The important thing to know is that kids can get really sick from COVID-19, and the vaccine can protect them. According to the CDC, children are just as likely to get COVID-19 as adults. If they do get infected, they can get very sick and have health complications — including “long COVID,” just like adults. They can also spread COVID-19 to other people they are in close contact with. Children with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk from COVID-19.

For the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved, it was tested in clinical trials involving thousands of children. These trials did not find any serious safety issues, with serious health events after vaccination documented as “rare.”

Some parents are concerned about reports of heart issues after vaccination. It is true that cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart) have been reported in some teens after vaccination. However, these cases are rare; one study of teen males found that the risk was 54 cases out of one million.

It is important to note that this age group is more at risk for developing Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome or MISC because of a COVID-19 infection. As of October 2021, there have been over 5,000 cases of MISC and nearly 40 percent of those affected were children 6 to 11 years old.

It is also important to know that kids cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The vaccines do not include any live virus, so it is not possible for them to become infected by receiving the vaccine.

Finally, there is also no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.

Children can have the same side effects as adults from the COVID vaccine. So, if your child does get vaccinated, they may have pain or swelling in the arm where they got the shot. Other symptoms may include fatigue, headache, body aches, chills, fever, or nausea. These symptoms are a positive sign that the immune system is responding to the vaccine. You can treat symptoms with Tylenol, and they should go away in a few days.

The bottom line is, if your child is eligible to receive the vaccine, please get them vaccinated. The benefits of receiving the vaccine far outweigh the risks of contracting the virus and the unknown severity of illness, and even long-term illness, it may cause.

Q: Should I get the COVID vaccine while pregnant? Is it safe?

Dr. Michael Shea, Intensivist and Chief Medical Director, Maui Health: The CDC recommends that people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should get vaccinated for COVID-19.

There are several reasons why getting vaccinated can help people who are pregnant. First and foremost, pregnancy can increase the risk of getting COVID-19, and it can also increase the risk of severe disease. That means you are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID if you are pregnant.

Getting COVID while you are pregnant also increases the risk of maternal and fetal complications, like preterm labor.

It is not possible for your fetus to be exposed to COVID-19 from the vaccine. That is because the vaccine does not use any live virus and cannot cause a COVID infection.

You should know that because the COVID vaccines were approved for emergency use, early trials did not include pregnant people. However, everything we know about the vaccines indicates they are safe — thousands of pregnant women have been vaccinated and there have been no reported safety concerns. None of the ingredients in them are harmful during pregnancy and early results from recent safety research studies indicate that the vaccine is as safe in pregnant women as it is in others.

The bottom line is that COVID-19 is extremely dangerous for both pregnant women and their unborn babies. Getting vaccinated can significantly reduce that risk.

* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.

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