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Ask the Pediatrician: Tips for getting your kids (5-11) COVID vaccines

Dr. Susanna Block on safety, side effects and the importance of getting vaccinated.

Ask about the kids COVID vaccine and you can hear the excitement, and the relief, in Dr. Susanna Block’s voice.

“We are all in!” Block said of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine just approved for kids 5-11. “People around me are taking kids out of school to get vaccinated.”

Block, a pediatrician who sees patients at Kaiser Permanente’s Queen Anne clinic, has heard from kids that it’s an “easy shot.” She says some kids are so in tune to the situation that they realize that is one-third the dose given to adults. She also likes to share the “fun fact” that the kids’ version of the vaccine comes in a vial with an orange cap, while the adult one has a purple cap.

She also says that, “Overall, it’s a really well-tolerated vaccine” in kids. Potential side effects include arm soreness, redness or swelling, or general body aches or fatigue. She describes those symptoms as typically being “mild to moderate” and usually gone in a day or two.

In addition, compared to adults, “Kids are doing better. They’re more resilient,” she says.

Side effects might be more likely, or more severe, after the second dose, which should be given roughly three weeks after the first.

She emphasized that, while vaccines were developed quickly, “There were no shortcuts.

“We feel like this is the right thing for our patients and their families.”

She’s also a mom and says that, once her kids are fully vaccinated, “I’m going to feel a lot better.” However, she still reminds people to continue wearing masks and taking precautions.


Q&A with Dr. Block on vaccines

  • Where can kids get their shots? There are many choices, Dr. Block said, and they’re all good: public-health vaccine sites, pharmacies, doctors’ offices. The state of Washington has an online tool for finding a vaccine. Entering your ZIP code is likely to bring up many choices; look for ones that indicate that they have “Pfizer-BioNTech Pediatric, ages 5 – 11.” Kaiser Permanente is making appointments through its website, and you do not have to be a Kaiser member.
  • Will kids need boosters, too? We don’t know yet, but Dr. Block said she “wouldn’t be surprised.” Stay tuned.
  • What about kids younger than 5? Dr. Block, while acknowledging she has no “top-secret doctor information,” notes that studies are taking place in kids as young as 6 months.
  • What about the antiviral drugs we’re hearing more about to treat COVID? Don’t they reduce the urgency of getting vaccinated? While Dr. Block said she didn’t have a specific recommendation on use of such medications, she hopes they “don’t take away from the importance of vaccinating everybody.”
  • What about myocarditis, a rare heart inflammation associated with COVID-19 vaccines? Dr. Block emphasizes that this is an extremely rare reaction, but, “We are aware of it, and we monitor for it.”


Tips for getting the kids’ COVID vaccine

Here’s what Dr. Block suggests:

  • Have them dress comfortably. (Wear short sleeves or layers for easy access to the upper arm.)
  • Don’t arrive too early. Particularly if your kids are nervous about getting shots, try to avoid having extra time to sit and fret.
  • Bring something to do, both during any waiting time and during the observation time afterward. Most people need to stay on-site for 15 minutes in case of any severe side effects, and in some cases, kids are held for 30 minutes.
  • Wear masks, just like at school and other public places.
  • Remind kids that getting the shot is keeping them safe and helping their community. Even though children have had fewer (and less severe) instances of COVID-19, the risk is not zero. Additionally, they are able to carry and spread the virus. After becoming fully vaccinated, “They’re going to be safer, and the people around them are going to be safer. It’s their superpower.”
  • Bring older siblings along. If you have kids 12 and up who haven’t yet been vaccinated, do it now. “We’re still not where we want to be” with that age group, Dr. Block says.


More Ask the Pediatrician:

Can kids take melatonin? And other sleep tips

When should kids get cellphones? A doctor weighs in



About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.