Although minors are not considered as a population at risk in terms of COVID-19, they play a leading role in the disease transmission, and in the spread of the pandemic. Also, since at present we have little knowledge about the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 infection, therefore an emphasized attention should be focused on youth.
Most of the time children (asymptomatically or only with mild symptoms) spread the infection fast and easily through their communities, sometimes even without knowing about their infection. Based on international healthcare data it can be concluded that hospitalization rarely occurred in the case of children with COVID-19 infection. However, the number of infections is higher in their population than in that of adults.
Potential complications of COVID-19 infection
COVID-19 infection in minors (below the age of 18) usually has a mild course, the symptoms are mild, and many cases are even asymptomatic. Based on this, we could believe that the infection is harmless to children, but this is an erroneous assumption since the complications of the disease might be quite severe sometimes.
Potential COVID-19 complications in children:
- chronic fatigue syndrome;
- respiratory difficulties arising from lung damage,
- cardiovascular complications (e.g. myocarditis, arrhythmias);
- liver and kidney damage;
- neurological symptoms (e.g. attention deficit, sleeping problems).
One of the most severe complications is the so-called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), which is a rare, but very severe condition that develops a few weeks after COVID-19 infection. Its symptoms might be life-threatening, and it often results in permanent heart and kidney problems.
The best way to prevent complications is to get vaccinated and to decrease the probability of getting infected.
To achieve this, one must comply with epidemiological measures (hygiene regulations, social distancing, wearing masks – as far as children can comply with wearing masks) and get vaccinated.
Information on COVID-19 vaccination for children
Vaccines are available and recommended above the age of 5. In Hungary, Pfizer vaccines are used for vaccination of children aged 5-17 and Moderna is used in children aged 6-17.
The advantages of COVID-19 vaccination in children:
- Decreases the probability of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). MIS-C is a life-threatening complication of the disease that might develop even after mild COVID-19 infections.
- Decreases the probability of developing post-COVID-symptoms. After the infection, long-term complications might occur which may affect children’s life quality and performance (e.g., fatigue, attention-, memory-, computative, grammatical- and cognitive disorder, prolonged loss of taste and smell). These prolonged symptoms have been reported worldwide in children affected with COVID-19, which confirms the importance of prevention.
- Decreases the probability of fatal infections. The incidence of fatal COVID-19 infections in children is as low as 0.00-0.26%, therefore this is not the primary indication of vaccination.
However, we must remember that COVID-19 vaccination is not only a personal interest but an important tool in the fight against the pandemic. In children’s communities the virus spreads very easily and fast, then the children may “bring home” the infection, where it can be transmitted to people of older age groups (e.g., grandparents) who are at greater risk of getting infected.
Vaccinated children are less likely to transmit the virus to their peers, family members, parents, and grandparents, thereby protecting those at greater risk of getting infected.
Above the age of 12, after the primary series of vaccination, booster vaccines are also available. Booster vaccines are available at vaccination points and institutions appointed for children aged 12-18.
Vaccination at hospital vaccination points requires former registration of the child on the “Vakcinainfo” website. After the registration, the parent can register (apply) for a vaccination appointment through the EESZT.
Children can be vaccinated by the GP Pediatrician as well as the parents’ request.
Minors (below the age of 18) can be vaccinated only after the parent gave informed consent.
Potential side effects of COVID-19 vaccines
As all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines might also have side effects, patients might develop a so-called “vaccine reaction” that is part of the natural immune response to the vaccine. In most cases, this means transient, mild symptoms that resolve on their own within a short period of time.
The side effects of COVID-19 vaccines in children are consistent with those in adults. In children involved in sports activities, straining workouts and sports should be avoided in the first few days after vaccination.
Vaccine reaction symptoms can be the following:
- pain, redness, or swelling of the skin at the injection site;
- transient fatigue, weakness, light-headedness;
- headache, nausea;
- subfebrility or fever.
For further information on what you should do after vaccination, click here.
Frequently asked questions about vaccination for children
Does the vaccine influence growth or puberty?
The COVID-19 vaccine does not intervene in biological processes which are critical in growth and puberty, and it does not influence the endocrine system either. A general fact about COVID-19 vaccines is that they do not contain DNA, and even mRNA vaccines do not have the capacity to enter into the cell’s nucleus, thereby they cannot interfere with the genes.
Can vaccines cause infertility?
The side effects of vaccines have been continuously monitored by pharmaceutical companies and authorities. So far there has been no evidence of infertility caused by vaccination – although a short irregularity might occur in the menstruation cycle, which usually does not last longer than one or two months.
Is vaccination necessary if the child has already had a COVID-19 infection?
The previous infection provides some protection, but it can be stated that the strength of the immune response is proportional to the course of the disease, therefore a mild disease course (which often occurs in children) might result in low protection.
On the other hand, vaccines have been proven to provide stronger and longer protection (although interpersonal variability might occur). For those patients who already went through a COVID-19 infection, the vaccination might serve as a booster vaccine – this is what we sometimes call hybrid (super) immunity.