RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – While conversations and debates about COVID-19 and the available vaccines are held among adults, children are always listening. If COVID-19 vaccines are made available for younger children, they may have questions about them.
“I think it is really important to remember where your kid is developmental. That should help dictate how you have that conversation. Having a really complicated conversation with an early elementary age child won’t be helpful,” said Dr. Christina Johns, pediatrician and senior medical advisor for PM Pediatrics.
Children may ask why they’re getting vaccinated but their classmate or neighborhood friend is not.
“You can say, ‘Hey, we are going to do this, lots of kids and babies get vaccines to help protect themselves and others. We’re going to do the same thing. Every family is different. What our family is going to do is this,” explained Johns.
She said role-modeling, letting your child know you got vaccinated and letting your child know it is now their turn could be helpful.
“In very, very, simple terms, allows children to feel like they are part of the helping process too and kids want to please and improve situations and make things better. Pointing out that this is an opportunity for them to participate can really hit home for them,” said Johns.
Do you need to have these conversations with every child? Johns said to let your child take the lead. If they don’t ask questions, it may just be easier to take them for their COVID-19 vaccine like you would any other shot.
“I think that taking your cue from your child, asking more questions when they ask you questions, ask questions back to find out exactly what they know and what level of knowledge and understanding they have. Then from there, that can help dictate how much information you want to share and in what way,” Johns said.
She said parents should also feel confident in knowing the vaccines would not be approved if the FDA and CDC did not deem them to be safe and effective.
“I think it’s absolutely okay to have hesitations and concerns. What’s not okay is to get the information from social media and from ‘experts’ that you don’t know what their background is,” said Johns. She pointed parents to their primary care physicians or pediatricians for accurate and reliable information.
If you have a family who cannot get vaccinated against COVID-19, Johns said there are still safety measures to keep in mind.
“If there are more vulnerable persons in your household, so whether it’s a baby, or whether it’s somebody who has a weakened immune system, for example, then all of the other layered protection measures that we have been thinking about for the last 20 or so months still need to apply,” Johns said.
Those measures are masking, hand washing, and avoiding large crowds.