Children tend to have many vaccinations in their younger years – standard immunizations, flu shots, and now COVID-19 vaccines as well. And while getting shots is likely not your child’s favorite activity, they are necessary to keep children safe and healthy.

Child Health, Coronavirus Updates | one month ago

How to Help Children Prepare for Vaccinations

Children tend to have many vaccinations in their younger years – standard immunizations, flu shots, and now COVID-19 vaccines as well. And while getting shots is likely not your child’s favorite activity, they are necessary to keep children safe and healthy. Here’s how parents and caregivers can help prepare kids for getting these important vaccinations.

Between their busy immunization schedules, seasonal flu shots and now COVID-19 vaccines, many children will be getting at least one, and possibly several, shots in the near future.

Vaccinations don’t have to be scary or intimidating for a child. There are several ways parents and caregivers can help kids feel comfortable and prepared ahead of time.

Let’s Talk About Shots

Most children receive numerous vaccines to help prevent the spread of deadly diseases such as polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps, and chicken pox. As children get older, they may receive an annual seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine as well. Many children are also vaccinated against HPV.   

According to John Licata, MD, pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Charlotte Pediatric Clinic - Steele Creek, vaccines – including the COVID-19 vaccine – have a long history of safety and efficacy. “I encourage parents to review the evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines in general, and the COVID-19 vaccine specifically,” he says. Dr. Licata stresses that “the FDA would not approve a vaccine if the benefits did not outweigh the risks, and there’s a lot of data and research that goes into FDA approval of vaccines for children.”

Benefits of vaccines

“Both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine will reduce the severity of the illness if a child does contract the virus,” says Dr. Licata. “Neither vaccine can guarantee that a person won’t get infected, but if a vaccinated child contracts the flu or COVID-19, the resulting illness will be much milder.”

Parents who vaccinate their children will be able to rest easier when sending their children to school, allowing them to play sports, interacting in social situations, or being out in public.

Vaccine myths, busted

Despite the fact that vaccines have been widely and successfully used in the U.S. for decades, some myths still persist when it comes to getting vaccinated.

“The myth that the flu vaccine gives someone the flu isn’t true,” says Dr. Licata. “Likewise, the COVID-19 vaccine can’t give a person COVID-19. There can be some mild side effects with vaccines, but they’re not related to the person actually becoming infected with the flu or COVID-19 virus.”

As for myths about other vaccines, such as certain vaccines being linked to autism, “The original case series that suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been retracted, and multiple studies since then have proven that claim to be false. In addition, hundreds of thousands of children have been just fine after receiving the routine vaccines on the recommended vaccination schedule without spacing them out or altering the schedule,” says Dr. Licata.

What to expect during, and after, getting vaccinated

With most vaccines, children – just like adults – can expect some pain at the injection site and some soreness in the area after getting a shot. Most side effects, if they occur, can be easily managed at home with remedies like over-the-counter pain relievers.

When it comes to getting a COVID-19 vaccine, “it shouldn’t be any more painful than the other shots most children have received from the time they were babies,” explains Dr. Licata. As for side effects, “there tend to be limited side effects with the first dose, and perhaps some more prominent but short-term side effects from the second dose or booster shot,” he says. 

Side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine may include soreness, swelling, headache, fever, or chills. These are all normal and should reside within a few days.

Lessening the pain – mentally and physically 

There are a number of things parents and caregivers can do to ensure vaccinations go as smoothly as possible.

Don’t:

  • Don’t panic if your child panics. Keep calm, provide a distraction, and offer positive reinforcement.
  • Don’t force a child physically. You can support your child with a hug or holding hands and letting them squeeze your hand.
  • Don’t scold your child if he or she is afraid. Instead, explain the benefits of the vaccine and offer a reward.

Do:

  • Explain to children that the benefits of vaccines – including COVID-19 and flu vaccines – far outweigh any risks or side effects.
  • Let kids know that a brief moment of pain is normal (“you may feel a pinch” or “you may feel a little sting”), but it’s minimal and temporary.
  • Normalize vaccines as a part of a well child visit. Prepare the child ahead of time by letting them know they can expect a vaccine, and that it’s to be expected.
  • Keep a calm demeanor during vaccinations.
  • Provide distraction – like having kids count down, blow hard, or do deep breathing – if a child is worried, anxious or fidgeting during the vaccination.
  • Offer a reward, like stickers, toys, books, or even a treat (like that old classic, the lollipop) to provide positive reinforcement after getting vaccinated.
  • Give your child a dose of over-the-counter pain reliever after shots if necessary to relieve any lingering soreness at the injection site.
  • Make sure the child drinks plenty of fluids after receiving a vaccination.
  • Model good behavior by getting your annual flu shot and other necessary vaccines.

To learn more about pediatric care at Levine Children’s, visit online. For updates on COVID-19 vaccines and to make an appointment for your child, visit our resource hub.