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What are the Covid-19 vaccine side effects in young kids? Experts seek to ease parents’ concerns

Covid-19 vaccines for children younger than 5 are rolling out this week. The US Food and Drug Administration and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on the shots’ safety and efficacy. Like with any vaccine, though, it’s possible kids may experience a few side effects.

The safety data from Moderna and Pfizer, vetted by the FDA and CDC, found potential side effects were mostly mild and short-lived.

For parents and caregivers planning to get their little ones vaccinated, pediatricians say there are a few things to watch out for — generally the same effects adults or older children might have experienced after their shots.

Most vaccine side effects are mild, short-lived

“In general, I think the most common side effects from either of the vaccines are still the most common side effects we see from pretty much any child that gets any vaccine,” said Dr. Grant Paulsen, the principal site investigator for the Pfizer and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials for kids 6 months to 11 years old at Cincinnati Children’s.

Side effects most commonly included pain at the injection site, and sometimes there was swelling or redness.

“Those are all what I would classify as pretty common side effects that most parents that have taken their children to the doctor to get their various hepatitis and tetanus vaccines and all that kind of stuff were probably pretty used to,” Paulsen said.

As far as systemic or body-wide symptoms, the most common was fatigue or sleepiness. Some children had irritability or fussiness, loss of appetite, headache, abdominal pain or discomfort, enlarged lymph nodes, mild diarrhea or vomiting. But everyone got better quickly.

“It’s very similar to the side effects we’ve seen for older kids or for adults. About 24 hours of some kids, you know, they kind of don’t feel as well, they feel tired, they don’t have the same appetite. But thankfully, there have not been any serious side effects of these vaccines,” Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 response coordinator said on CBS on Monday. “And again, after giving these vaccines to millions of children, it’s really reassuring to know that for young kids these vaccines are exceedingly safe.”

Side effects were mild to moderate and were far less frequent with this young age group than with older ages, Paulsen said.

“My big picture for parents is really [that] the side effects should not be alarming,” Paulsen said.

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