As the number of COVID-19 infections in the Philadelphia region increases with the new Omicron Variant, we recognize that some parents and guardians are understandably worried and full of questions with this newest disruption. APM, with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local public health experts and others, is here to answer your questions about how to keep kids safe from COVID-19.
INFORMATION UPDATED JANUARY 6, 2022.
Q: What are the common symptoms of COVID-19 in children?
A: Generally, COVID-19 symptoms in kids and babies are milder than those in adults, and some infected children may not have any signs of being sick at all. COVID-19 symptoms for children are similar to those for adults, including:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- New fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Congestion or runny nose
Q: How likely are children to get COVID?
A: The highly contagious Omicron variant has caused increases in cases across all ages, including children. The good news is that many children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or they may have no symptoms at all (“asymptomatic”). Fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults.
That being said, some children can still become severely ill with COVID-19. That’s why we still need to take proper precautions to help keep everyone safe, especially for children who aren’t eligible for vaccines right now.
Q: When will shots be available to children?
A: Vaccines are already available for children ages 5 and up! The CDC recommends a COVID-19 vaccine for all children 5 and older. On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, the CDC issued its recommendation that children ages 5 to 11 receive the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, following the FDA’s full authorization the week prior. Pfizer submitted extensive data to the FDA in late September, showing that the vaccine is safe and effective for this age group.
Vaccines are readily available to children in health centers, hospitals, pediatricians’ offices and pharmacies. Did you know more than 4 million children nationwide have already received their first dose as of December 2021?
NOTE: Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only approved COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11. Moderna is currently in the process of getting approved, too. As of May 2021, children 12 years and older have been eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Q: Where can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available to both children ages 5 to 11 and kids 12 years and up for FREE. The City of Philadelphia offers several vaccine clinics. Your child can also get the vaccine at many local pharmacies and pediatricians’ offices, including from providers under the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
APM’s weekly COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic (supported by Miriam Medical and Temple Health) also has pediatric doses available every Wednesday from 10-12 PM at 4221 N 2nd Street. No appointment is necessary.
Click here to find a vaccine site closest to your family.
Q: Is the COVID-19 dosage different for kids than it is for adults?
A: Yes, according to Pfizer, kids ages 5 to 11 will receive a 10-microgram dose level which is about one-third of a dose that adults receive. It is the same vaccine but just a reduced dose volume. Data has shown it to be very effective.
If and when authorized, the Moderna vaccine for 6- to 11-year-olds would be a 50-microgram dose which is approximately half the amount of an adult dose.
Q: Will kids experience the same symptoms as adults when they receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: Generally, yes. Your child might notice pain at the injection site in their arm and could feel more tired than usual. Headache, achy muscles or joints, and even fever and chills are also possible. These side effects are usually temporary and generally clear up within 48 hours.
Q: Are children eligible to receive a booster dose?
A: As of Wednesday, January 5 2022, children ages 12-15 became eligible to receive the Pfizer booster five months after his or her 2nd dose of the vaccine. Teens (16 and up) and adults have been eligible for some time and should get boosted as soon as they can. For adult booster eligibility, check out these guidelines from the CDC.
Q: Is it likely that kids under 12 can get the Delta variant?
A: Even though the Delta variant may be waning, there is still much uncertainty. Children can transmit the virus to more vulnerable adults. This is why it’s so important for anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated – to protect those who can’t. The good news: When young children do get the virus, symptoms very often seem like a cold.
Q: What about Omicron? Is it likely that the Omicron variant will spread to kids under 12?
A: With the extremely high rates of infection resulting from the Omicron variant, we have seen an increase in cases in children, as well as adults. It is understandable to be worried and anxious about the fast increase in cases these past couple weeks, especially in vaccinated folks.
The good news is that experts are not seeing evidence so far that the Omicron variant is more threatening to children. And in fact, early data shows that Omicron is causing milder illnesses in children than the Delta variant. (This is also true for adults, especially those who are vaccinated.)
Q: Still, I’m concerned about sending my kids to school. How can we protect them?
A: The most important tool we have to protect our children is the vaccine. The more kids and adults we have vaccinated, the less likely the virus is to spread. Plus, as we’ve learned with Omicron, even if you are vaccinated and get sick, the vaccines make sure your experience is mild and less likely to get others sick, as well.
Around Philly, precautions are being taken very seriously to keep kids as safe as possible so they can continue learning. These precautions include vaccinations, masking, social distancing and ventilation.
For example: The Philadelphia School Board has mandated COVID-19 vaccines for all staff. And everyone must wear masks.
APM required staff to be vaccinated last year by August 31, 2021. This winter, APM made boosters available to staff and recommended that any eligible staff get boosted as soon as possible. Those who are not vaccinated are required to submit a test weekly for monitoring. All APM staff must be masked in our facilities, vaccinated or not, at all times. These are all important tools for keeping students and their families, and teachers as safe as possible.
Q: What questions should parents ask to ensure daycare centers are taking precautions?
A: You may want to ask about vaccination requirements for staff, as this lessens the chance of COVID-19 transmission. If the daycare center doesn’t require vaccination or enforce testing, you may want to consider a different location.
Other important questions: Have they focused on ventilation? Do they have the windows open? Will everyone be masked? What other precautions are being taken? We still want to take as many steps as possible to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Q: My teenagers are refusing to get the vaccine. It’s very frustrating, and I don’t know what to do about it.
A: We know you may feel like you’re unable to convince your teenagers to get vaccinated, but please keep trying. Try to listen to their point of view and learn more about why they don’t want to get vaccinated. Share specific data or information with them that shows why their beliefs may not be justified. Connect them with someone other than yourself whom they trust – a family doctor or a respected community leader who they can talk to and discuss their concerns about getting vaccinated with.
If you cannot convince them to get vaccinated, remind them to use the same measures we have all along – such as mask-wearing and social distancing – to protect vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Stress that they must think about what they’re doing, where they’re going and that outdoors is safer than in. In larger crowds, they must wear a mask. And that applies to kids ages 2 and up as well.
Q: How do I know if my kid’s stuffy nose is COVID-19 or something else? What if my child is exposed to someone who later tests positive?
A: Give them a COVID test when you can and check in with a pediatrician, if possible. Getting tested is the only way to differentiate between COVID-19, allergies or another respiratory illness.
There are at-home testing options now that you can buy at drug stores like CVS or Walgreens for around $25. There are also free testing sites across Philadelphia. Click HERE to find testing sites near you. If you are going to a testing site, make sure it’s a site that has been verified by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. No testing site should ever ask you for private information like your social security number.
If you are using an at home testing kit, the Mayo Clinic has a great resource that you can find HERE, to offer tips for easing any anxiety your child (or you!) may have about getting a nasal swab. The video was made for children as young as 4.
Q: What should I do if I can’t get a test for my child?
A: We can understand how frustrating it can be to get a test right now. It can be really hard to get your hands on a test and sometimes it’s not possible to wait in line for a long time, especially when you have kids with you and it’s cold out.
If you can’t get your child tested, experts recommend that you assume your child is positive until they can get tested, especially if they have symptoms. This means keeping them away from other members of the family as much as possible and anyone outside of your household (especially grandparents or people more vulnerable to severe illness). And of course, definitely wearing masks (for anyone older than 2 years old) and practicing frequent handwashing.
More guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health can be found here. These tips, specific to children, are also helpful.
Q: Can I get COVID-19 from my child?
A: Yes, it is possible for a child who is sick to transmit COVID-19 to another person. However, data from some studies suggest that young children may be less likely than older children and adults to spread the coronavirus to others, but it can still happen so precautions need to be taken with children, especially around grandparents or others who are more vulnerable to getting severely sick.
Q: As a parent, I’m having a hard time dealing emotionally with all of the disruptions and ups and downs of this pandemic. Where can I seek help?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on all of our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be really stressful and overwhelming. And for many parents, that has been extra challenging as we try to keep everyone safe around us. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has a number of tools and resourcesto support the mental health and wellbeing of all Philadelphians.
APM’s health department may also be able to help. To see the Behavioral Health services we offer and fill out a referral form, see here.
At the end of the day, from our APM familia to yours, we want to remind you that you are not alone. You are strong & you are resilient. We will all get through this.