By Kimberly Moreland, Family Nurse Practitioner at UnityPoint Health — Meriter
As children over the age of 12 have become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, many parents have struggled to decide whether to immunize their children. As a mother of two daughters, I had fears of my own to work through. It is natural to be skeptical of new medical technology, especially during a time when information about the virus and the vaccine seems to change daily. I was trained to think about medical decisions in terms of risk versus reward, and the benefit of the COVID-19 vaccine outweighs any danger by leaps and bounds. As someone who works in medicine, I naturally hear a lot of questions and concerns, so I want to address a few about the vaccine, so that you can make an informed decision.
Myth 1: We’ll have to take time out of school or childcare if my child gets sick from the vaccine.
Reality: The vaccine can’t make you “sick.” The risk of inflammation of the heart and its lining after the vaccine is real, but it is extremely rare, and it is treatable. It is possible to feel lousy for a bit, if your immune system is working hard. Most people don’t have side effects other than a sore arm. Those that have whole-body side effects, like fatigue and headache, usually feel better within a day and many can go about their usual activities with or without a dose of Tylenol.
Myth 2: My kids are healthy, and I’m healthy. If we get COVID-19, we’ll be fine.
Reality: People with chronic diseases are at greater risk for severe COVID-19, but it can happen to healthy people too. The sickest COVID patient I saw in my practice was also the youngest. Long COVID is also no joke. You may survive and avoid the hospital, but you might have other lasting effects and health impacts. Or, you could infect someone else and they could become severely ill.
Myth 3: The vaccine can cause infertility.
Reality: During the vaccine clinical trials, 36 women became pregnant. None of the mothers who received the vaccine and became pregnant had miscarriages or major complications. In addition, fertility clinics had the opportunity to observe what happened during various important parts of conceiving and saw no differences in the fetuses or pregnancy outcomes.
Myth 4: The vaccine was rushed, and we don’t know what the long-term effects will be.
Reality: mRNA vaccine technology was in development for 20 years before the COVID-19 pandemic. Think about this as a plug-and-play system. Scientists were able to sequence the code for the COVID-19 spike protein in days, then they plugged it into the delivery system that had already been in development. The vaccine teaches the immune system to attack the spike protein. The vaccine does not change your DNA. Vaccine side effects are seen quickly, in minutes to days. Nearly 4 billion people have received a COVID-19 vaccine. We already know what to expect from these vaccines.
NOTE: This article is from our September/October 2021 issue. Information and age requirements for the vaccine may have changed since the article was published. Please check with your local health department or the CDC for up-to-date information about the COVID-19 vaccine.