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COVID Vax: Safe For Teens?

Virus Outbreak New Jersey Vaccine
Seth Wenig/AP
Alejandro Garcia, 16, receives his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J., Monday, April 19, 2021. New Jersey is opening up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to those 16 or older beginning today; only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for teenagers younger than 18. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds. Some myths have taken hold about the safety of the vaccine. We ran these misconceptions by Dr. Piedade Silva, a pediatrician with the Lee Physicians Group in Fort Myers. Here's what she had to say.

Myth: The Pfizer vaccine is not safe for children.

Dr. Silva: Pfizer is a very safe vaccine for adults and kids. There's plenty of data supporting the safety, there's no data proving that it's not safe in children whatsoever.

Myth: The COVID vaccine doesn't work as well in children.

Dr. Silva: The data shows that it actually works quite well in people over age 12. Currently effectiveness is at around 94%.

Myth: Kids get only mild cases, so there is no need to vaccinate them.

Dr. Silva: A child does not live alone. So the child may get mild symptoms, the parents may not, and the grandparents or great grandparents will definitely not do well. So if the child gets it, they will spread it to people that may not do as well. And there have been deaths in children. There have been serious outcomes in children with COVID. They not very frequent, but they are there.

Kids are great transmitters. They may not get as sick, but they are wonderful transmitters. They touch everything. They hug everybody. So maybe their families are vaccinated, but they'll spread it to their friends whose grandparents or parents have not been, and there we go: disaster happens. This is a public health issue. And we all have a responsibility to protect not just ourselves, but our community.

Myth: The COVID vaccine affects fertility in young girls, or a loss of menstruation.

Dr. Silva: It does not. The vaccine is a messenger RNA. So it's a tiny little piece that inserts into the cells. It does not get into the nucleus of the cell where the DNA is. There is no way that this affects you genetically. It is like you have a big computer and you just put an app in there, this app that you put in there is not going to affect the rest of the apps, or the software on the computer. It's just does its independent thing, which is to create a memory to fight the virus.

Even though this vaccine is new, the mRNA vaccines have been under study for decades. That’s why they were able to come up with vaccine so fast. The knowledge was there. There is a lot that's known about the messenger RNA vaccine, and it does not affect your genes. It does not affect your DNA, it is not going to cause birth defects in your children or affect your fertility, none of that. So that's just a myth that, unfortunately, gets on Facebook, Twitter, and everything else. There's no scientific basis to it.

Myth: There are government trackers in the vaccine.

Dr. Silva: Ah, well, that's my favorite one. Absolutely not. But if you're afraid that the government is going to track you, please, by all means, give up your car with you GPS, give up your Apple watch, and your smartphones and a few other things we all have. Governments can track us with the blink of an eye. Everybody can track you nowadays. That is absolutely absurd.

Myth: I already had COVID, so I don’t need to get vaccinated.

Dr. Silva: It’s still recommended that you do, because we don't know how long your immunity from having the COVID infection lasts. We do know that there are people that have gotten COVID multiple times. So we know that the immunity you get from one COVID infection does not really protect you that long. And I can tell you personally in my family, my brother-in-law got it twice. The second time landed him in the hospital. That’s why you should still get the vaccine.

Myth: Getting the vaccine will give you COVID.

Dr. Silva: You can only get COVID if you get exposed to the virus. The vaccine is not a viral vaccine. So there's no way that you can get COVID from a vaccine because it's just a tiny little piece of the inside the virus. You’re not going to get COVID from the vaccine.