Alabama doctor debunks 5 common COVID vaccine myths & shares how to protect your children

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Covid Vaccine Myths
How to keep your children safe this holiday season. Photo via CDC, Unsplash

COVID vaccine myths are spread far and wide across the internet and social media. Sometimes, it can be hard to determine what’s coming from a credible source. But, with the Omicron variant now present in the United States and holiday travel ramping up, Alabama parents need to know how to keep their children safe. We chatted with an expert from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama for more details.

Nearly 600 COVID cases in one week across Alabama K-12 schools

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, nearly 600 COVID cases were reported across Alabama K-12 schools during the week of December 6, 2021. It’s important to note that multiple areas, including Montgomery County and Muscle Shoals City were unreported.

Children across Alabama are getting sick with COVID, which not only disrupts academic and extracurricular schedules, but derails holiday plans and, in worst cases, can lead to hospitalization or even death. Alabama parents want to know—how can they protect their children? First, know the facts.

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Alabama doctor debunks 5 COVID vaccine myths for children

Covid
Meet Dr. Michael Catenacci. Photo via Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Dr. Michael Catenacci is a Medical Director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. He is also a dual-board certified physician, and, perhaps most importantly, a father of two.

His children were both vaccinated as soon as they were eligible, a decision he felt was essential for protecting their physical and mental health. Now, he’s sharing his knowledge with us so other Alabama parents can make an informed decision.

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Myth #1: My child isn’t eligible for the vaccine

Fact: All children 5+ are eligible for the Pfizer COVID vaccine. Appointments are available now across Alabama.

Myth #2: Because children are healthy and resilient, they don’t need the vaccine

Fact: Statistically speaking, kids do tend to handle COVID better than adults. However, hundreds of children across the country have still died from the virus.

Dr. Catenacci breaks down a few critical reasons your child needs the vaccine:

  • Weakened Immune Systems: Some children have compromised immune systems and/or risk factors which make them more susceptible to getting very sick from COVID. 
  • Complications of COVID:  Children who are infected with COVID can develop serious complications such as Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) which leads to inflammation in parts of the body, like the heart, lungs or brain. There have been several thousands of cases of MIS-C in the 5-11 age group. Vaccinating could potentially prevent this.
  • Mental Health: Practically speaking, vaccinating against COVID can create less disruption for children. Less school missed and less activities they have to quarantine from. Now more than ever, kids need the opportunity to socialize and be around other kids.
  • Family Gatherings: It’s the holiday season, which means multi-generational gatherings are happening across Alabama, sometimes pulling family members in from different corners of the state. Vaccinating eligible children can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID to higher risk family members.

Myth #3: The Omicron variant makes the vaccine obsolete

Fact:  The Omicron variant is a variant of the initial virus that contains many mutations. It is still too early to understand the full details of how Omicron behaves in regards to how easily it spreads in a population, the severity of disease that it causes and the protection against it afforded by prior infection or vaccination.

This being said, experts believe it is likely that vaccination and boosters can protect against more severe disease from Omicron. Dr. Catenacci reminds us that we saw a similar phenomenon this summer when the Delta variant was on the rise. And, overwhelmingly, hospitalization and mortality rates were significantly higher for unvaccinated Alabamians.   

Myth #4: The vaccine will make my child sick

Fact: Dr. Catenacci was explicitly clear on this one, “You cannot get COVID from the vaccine. That does not happen,” he said.

Generally, the vaccine’s side effects (if any) are fairly mild. Your child might have a sore arm or low-grade fever that lasts a day or two. But, without a shadow of a doubt, the COVID vaccine does not cause COVID—in adults or children. Want specifics on the vaccine’s development or chemical makeup? Dr. Catenacci encourages you to speak with your doctor or visit the CDC’s website.

Myth #5: If most other children get vaccinated, my child won’t need it

Fact: Dr. Catenacci explains that relying on other people to get the vaccine, allowing an unvaccinated person to benefit from “herd immunity” without actually taking the vaccine themselves, can be a risky strategy, especially with a virus like this one.

“It seems like with this virus that even if the majority of people are vaccinated, the people that are unvaccinated are still at risk,” he said. “Relying on other people is not the best strategy when you have a highly transmissible virus like COVID that can find people that either have been unvaccinated or uninfected.”

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How to get your child vaccinated

From Mobile to Muscle Shoals, scheduling a vaccine appointment is a breeze.

All children 5+ are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Your child’s doctor or pharmacist can advise you on appropriate dosage and vaccine scheduling. Find an appointment today.

Count on Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama for fact-based updates on COVID vaccine information.

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Madison Croxson
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