CareNow® - May 21, 2021

It seems there’s a new update surrounding COVID-19 each day. It can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting used to the previous recommendations. But staying current is an important part of keeping yourself and your family safe.

Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commonly referred to as the CDC, made an announcement that children are now encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19. In December 2020, the recommendation was for people 16 years old and older to get the vaccine. However, on May 10, 2021, the CDC announced that adolescents aged 12-15 should also get vaccinated.  At present, the only vaccine indicated for this age group is the Phizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

In another change of events, the CDC reversed its earlier instruction that everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, should wear masks and practice social distancing. Now, people who are considered fully vaccinated (and have waited the appropriate time after their first or second dose, depending on the vaccine) no longer need to practice social distancing or wear a mask when around other people in most cases.  This does not apply to children or adolescents with immunocompromising conditions.

This updated information has left many wondering what’s right for their family. We’re taking a look at the CDC’s latest guidelines and what you need to know about each.

Should your child get vaccinated for COVID-19?

By now, a large portion of adults in the United States have received their first (if not both) COVID-19 vaccines. Until recently, no one under the age of 16 could receive the shot; however, the CDC has now declared that anyone 12 and over should get vaccinated.

This has inevitably raised questions among parents everywhere who are wondering if it’s safe for their child to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Here’s what the CDC is saying about children getting the shot:

  • It is both safe and effective for children as young as 12 years old to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The vaccines being administered have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring available in U.S. history. This includes studies in children.
  • Like adults, children will require a second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 3 weeks after they’ve gotten their first.
  • Children cannot contract COVID-19 from the vaccine.
  • It is safe for your child to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time they receive their routine shots.

Possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine for children

Children are just as susceptible to notice side effects from the shot as adults. Typical side effects include pain, redness and swelling on the arm where the shot was given.

Your child may also experience tiredness, muscle pain, chills, headache, fever and nausea throughout the rest of their body.

In most cases, these side effects will go away within a few days. You should check with your child’s provider about giving them pain relievers (however, you should never give your child a pain reliever with aspirin). It’s not recommended that you give your child a pain reliever before the shot to help prevent side effects.

Where to get your child vaccinated for COVID-19

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available in many locations around the country. You may be able to take your child to your local pharmacy to receive the vaccine (check their website for availability and to schedule an appointment).

In many instances, your child’s healthcare provider may also offer the vaccine.

How to prepare for your child’s vaccine

Before your appointment, talk to them about what to expect during and after the visit. Your child will have a much better experience if you’re able to comfort them during the appointment. If your child has any allergies, it’s important that you tell the provider or nurse before the shot is given.

In most cases, you will be asked to stay for 15-30 minutes after the vaccine is administered to monitor for allergic reactions or severe side effects. Keep your child distracted during this time with a book or fun game that will take their mind off of the shot they just received.

Do you need to wear a mask if you’re vaccinated?

As of May 2021, anyone who is fully vaccinated can resume activities as they did before the pandemic without a mask or social distancing. There are instances where federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations require masks, and you must be compliant. This includes business and workplace guidance.

How do you know if you’re fully vaccinated?

In most cases, you are considered fully vaccinated if:

  • It’s been two weeks since your second dose in a two-dose series (like Pfizer of Moderna).
  • It’s been two weeks since your first dose of a single-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you should continue taking all precautions until you meet these requirements.

What to start or keep doing if you’re vaccinated

If you’ve been fully vaccinated, meeting the requirements listed above, you’re now able to resume activities that you did before the pandemic began without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart (unless required by a law, rule or regulation).

Once you’ve reached full immunization, you can travel in the United States without getting tested before or after travel. You are also not required to self-quarantine after travel.

However, it is encouraged that you continue taking steps to protect yourself and others. This includes wearing a mask on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation into, within, or out of the U.S.

If you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 after you’ve been fully vaccinated, you are no longer required to stay away from others or to get tested (unless you have symptoms).

It’s important to note that anyone with a condition or taking a medication that weakens their immune system should continue taking all precautions to prevent COVID-19.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.