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Good news! Children ages 12 to 15 can now get a COVID-19 vaccine!
On May 10, 2021, the FDA authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15. It had previously been approved for those ages 16 and older.
This next step in reaching herd immunity is crucial. Not only does it expand the pool of eligible vaccine recipients to 87% of the U.S. population, but it also allows teens who have missed out on school, sports, prom, and other aspects of life to return to normal.
Do you have questions about the Pfizer vaccine and want to know more before your children get vaccinated?
Here’s what Latino parents should know.
UPDATE: Information about how teenagers can get the vaccine without needing parental consent in some states.
About the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine
You may have some questions about the Pfizer vaccine itself, and if the process is different for administering the vaccine to children.
Let’s start with the basics.
QUESTION: What is in the Pfizer vaccine?
ANSWER: The Pfizer vaccine consists of mRNA particles, lipids, acids, salts, and sugar. The ingredients are safe, standard, and publicly available.
Companies have been transparent about the ingredients throughout the process.
“Overall, the main ingredients in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are very similar, both vaccines were found to be safe and efficacious in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease in rigorously conducted clinical trials,” says Dr. Juan Ravell, division chief of allergy and immunology at Hackensack University Medical Center, according to Hackensack Meridian Health.
QUESTION: Can we trust that the vaccine is safe even though it was produced quickly?
ANSWER: COVID-19 vaccines are being produced and authorized faster than vaccines in the past have been for other pandemics and viruses. The COVID-19 vaccines were produced faster because of more funding, urgency, and years of prior research.
In the past, vaccines have taken a longer time to reach the public because of a lack of funding and resources.
With the COVID-19 vaccines, companies around the world have dedicated billions of dollars to help fund the efforts to fight the virus, because everyone recognizes how important it is to reach immunity.
Even though COVID-19 vaccines have only been in development for the last year, it will be safe for the public because of the rigorous clinical trials that they have gone through.
QUESTION: Will the vaccine alter or affect my DNA?
ANSWER: None of the COVID-19 vaccines will change your DNA. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is made from mRNA, but that will not change anything about your own DNA.
“Messenger RNA is something that’s made from DNA, but it’s not designed to integrate with our DNA, and it doesn’t permanently change our genome and who we are in any way,” Dr. Stappenbeck says, according to Cleveland Clinic.
QUESTION: When can this group of tweens and teens start getting their shots?
ANSWER: The Pfizer vaccine should be available as soon as this week.
Teenagers can get their shots at the same locations that are offering the vaccine to other groups.
Check salud.to/findvaccine to find COVID-19 vaccination sites near you!
QUESTION: Is the vaccine administered differently for children?
ANSWER: No, it is the same as for adults. The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots to be fully protected, the second being scheduled 21 days after the first.
To learn more about vaccines and vaccine misinformation, click here.
QUESTION: I want to get the vaccine but my parents don’t have time to take me or won’t let me. Can I still get it?
ANSWER: Yes, depending on your state.
California is currently looking at legislation that would allow teenagers 12 and up to be vaccinated without needing their parent’s consent.
“Alabama allows such decisions at age 14, Oregon at 15, Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16, according to Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who is proposing the change. Only Washington, D.C., has a lower limit, at age 11,” according to Associated Press.
Why Should Teenagers Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Some may wonder why teenagers need to get the COVID-19 vaccine at all.
While CDC data has shown that children are less likely to get severely infected compared to older populations, the risk is still present.
“While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Children, like adults, who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms (“asymptomatic”) can still spread the virus to others,” according to the CDC.
While the risk is lower, some children do become severely ill and die.
“During the pandemic, COVID-19 has been one of the leading causes of death among children, Dr. Sean O’Leary of the American Academy of Pediatrics tells NPR — some 300 to 600 children have died,” according to NPR.
The risk of severe illness and death may be much higher for immunocompromised children and children with underlying health conditions.
Latino children, who disproportionately experience medical conditions like diabetes and obesity, are at a high risk for severe COVID-19 infection.
“Latino children and young adults account for over 40% of the COVID-19 deaths among people ages 0-24,” according to the CDC.
Latino children are more likely to spread COVID-19 among families that live in multi-generational households or have family members working front line, high-risk service jobs.
Vaccinating teenagers can make a big impact in preventing the spread of COVID-19 among Latino communities, which have felt a huge burden from the virus over the last year.
How Can We Learn More?
Want to learn more about COVID-19 and help prevent the spread in your community?
Make sure you know misinformation when you see it and can help educate others about the facts on COVID-19.
If you or anyone you know is still hesitant about getting vaccinated, read these stories from real Latinos who had a #VaccineChangeofHeart and decided to get the vaccine after initially being against it.
You can also check out the “Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19” digital communication campaign from Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. This campaign was made to help Latino families and workers take action to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The #JuntosStopCovid campaign features culturally relevant fact sheets, infographics, and video role model stories to encourage Latinos to change their public health behaviors.
Share the campaign with your friends, family, and colleagues!