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Local voices on COVID-19: We want to hear your COVID questions. Should my adolescent get the COVID-19 vaccine?

May 26, 2021 11:03AM ● By Editor
May 26, 2021

By Kate Surbaugh, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic  

This article is the fourth in a series intended to give some local perspective on issues about COVID-19. They are also intended to help readers make an informed decision about the COVID-19 vaccines. We encourage suggestions for future topics and you can see how to do so at the end of the article.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration lowered the recommended age for the Pfizer vaccine, and adolescents aged 12 -15 are now eligible. This is great news for keeping our whole community safe from COVID-19 infection. Because this is a new development, many parents and adolescents have questions about the vaccine. Your local healthcare team has answers. 

One of the most common questions from parents is whether children are at more risk for adverse effects from the vaccine than adults. The answer is no, the vaccine is very safe for ages 12 and older. During clinical trials the Pfizer vaccine showed very similar rates of mild side effects for both adolescents and adults. These side effect usually only last a day or two and include symptoms like a sore arm or chills. None of the side effects were serious. 

Some parents have concerns that the COVID-19 vaccine can affect growth hormones, puberty or fertility. This is not true. There is no medical evidence that hormones or puberty could be affected by the vaccine. In clinical trials, women who received the vaccine got pregnant at the same rate as women who did not receive the vaccine. 

Finally, there are many families who wonder whether it’s really important for adolescents to get vaccinated — after all, they are not likely to get very sick from COVID-19. While it’s true that most children experience mild symptoms, some do become severely ill and need hospitalization. Children with mild COVID-19 cases sometimes experience symptoms that linger for months. When the potential for a serious viral infection are weighed against the relatively mild side effects of the vaccine, it’s clear that the vaccine is the lower risk. 

Adolescents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are not only protecting their own health, they are protecting friends, family and loved ones from infection. By getting vaccinated they help reduce the number of infections and exposures in school, sports and other activities. Getting adolescents vaccinated will mean fewer quarantines and a faster return to all the fun things they’ve missed in the past year. 

If you still have questions about whether the COVID-19 vaccine is right for your adolescent, that’s OK! Your child’s healthcare provider can help you find answers. And remember, kids aged 12-15 may have their own questions – be sure to include them in the conversation. You can make an appointment at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at 218-387-2330 or at Grand Portage Health Services at 218-475-2235.  

On Tuesday at 7 p.m., Dr. Kurt Farchmin from Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and Grace Grinager from Cook County Public Health and Human Services will be hosting a Zoom presentation on the COVID-19 vaccine and teens. There will be lots of time for parents to ask questions, and the presentation will be recorded and posted on the Cook County YouTube channel afterward. You can find the link for this presentation on the PHHS Facebook page.

Kate Surbaugh is a registered public health nurse and CEO of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. She is the mother of three children, ages 14, 16 and 19. 

Each article in this series will be written by someone here in Cook County. Next week’s Q&A topic is on long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. To submit a question, email [email protected] or call 218-387-3605. No question is too controversial. You can be assured that your questions will be kept anonymous.

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