Skip to main content

Military Health System

Based on data, MHS experts encourage vaccines for adolescents

Image of Sister and brother smiling at each other. Lucy Yun, 12, and Eli Yun, 14, pose for a family photo in San Antonio, Texas, May 2, 2021. The siblings, along with their brother Theo, 17, and their mother, Air Force Col. Heather Yun, deputy commander for medical services and an infectious disease physician, participated in vaccine trials. The Food and Drug Administration recently expanded the emergency use authorization to include the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years old (Photo by: Air Force Col. Heather Yun).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Children's Health

Air Force Col. Heather Yun enrolled her teenagers in COVID-19 vaccine trials in back in the winter.

An infectious disease physician, Yun spoke with her children at length about the vaccine studies, and they were eager to do their part in the battle against the pandemic. More nervous about the blood draw than the shot, her children "overcame their fears and got it done," she said.

"I am so incredibly proud of my brave kids for doing their part for their community and the nation," said Yun, who also serves as Brooke Army Medical Center's deputy commander of medical services.

With the recent authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for youth ages 12 to 15, Yun is now encouraging other parents to consider the vaccine for their adolescents as well.

"The data continues to demonstrate that the vaccine is safe and effective," Yun said. "Vaccinating this population is an important step in ending the pandemic."

LAYER OF PROTECTION

With emergency use authorization and a 100 percent efficacy rate for this age group, "we are strongly recommending the vaccine for adolescents," noted Army Maj. Megan Donahue, BAMC's chief, pediatric infectious diseases.

However, vaccine hesitancy continues to be an ongoing challenge, particularly among young people who feel less threatened by the virus due to lower infection rates and reports of mild illness, noted Air Force Lt. Col. Alice Barsoumian, associate professor of medicine, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium Infectious Disease Fellowship Program.

While it's true that fewer children have been infected with COVID than adults, experts are tracking an increase in COVID infection and hospitalizations within younger populations, Barsoumian said, citing reopening schools and the easing of face covering requirements as potential causes. Additionally, some strains appear to be more contagious to children.

"Thankfully, hospitalization rates are still low," she said, "But we need to keep in mind that one in three children hospitalized with COVID is admitted to the ICU (intensive care unit)."

Children may also be at risk of a severe inflammatory response to COVID infection called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, or MIS-C, a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While a direct link to COVID-19 hasn’t been established, many children with MIS-C had the virus or had been around someone with the infection.

Another risk is post-acute COVID syndrome, which causes symptoms to include fatigue, exercise intolerance, depression and poor sleep, explained Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Markelz, BAMC's chief of infectious disease service. “This syndrome does not occur with immunization," she noted.

Education and awareness remain key to boosting vaccination rates. "The vaccine is incredibly important for building herd immunity," Markelz said. "Additionally, children have the same transmissibility to others as adults, providing an important route of spread to their loved ones."

Yun's 12-year-old daughter, Lucy, agrees. "I think it's important for kids to get vaccinated because even though in some cases we're less likely to get hurt from sicknesses, it's better for protecting people who are higher risk," she said.

MINIMAL SIDE EFFECTS

The Pfizer vaccine is administered in the same dosage and dosing regimen for 12 to 15-year-olds as it is for ages 16 and older - which is two doses 21 days apart. The COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines may be administered without regard to timing, according to new CDC guidance. Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC previously had recommended a minimum of 14 days between the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines; however, data has indicated the safety of simultaneous administration.

As with adults, adolescents are reporting varying non-serious side effects post-vaccination, typically lasting for one to three days, Barsoumian said. These side effects can include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain.

Yun's 14-year-old son, Eli, reported a few side effects after his shot. "The vaccine itself didn't actually hurt when it was injected, but afterward, I had a pretty sore arm following the first dose, and flu-like symptoms following the second dose for a few days," he said.

"Side effects appear similar, but occur slightly more frequently in this population than in older populations," Barsoumian said. "We've noticed this in the adult population as well – the somewhat younger you are, the somewhat more frequently they occur."

MOVING FORWARD

While Pfizer is currently the only FDA-approved vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds, other manufacturers, such as Moderna, are likely to follow. As for the younger age groups, based on the study cohorts, the manufacturers will most likely roll out approval in stages, Barsoumian said, starting with 6- to 11-year-olds and followed by 2- to 5-year-olds at a later date.

Barsoumian is eager for that day to arrive. Her children, who are 10 and younger, are unable to get the shot at this time, but she has signed them up for all available studies across the state.

Markelz has also signed her young children up for local studies and is awaiting enrollment to open. "My kids dread getting vaccines, but they both have stated they will get it when they can because they want to protect 'nanna, papa and their teachers,'" she said.

With authorization at hand, many parents and adolescents are lining up to get the shot. The CDC has announced that half a million kids ages 12 to 15 have received a COVID-19 vaccine in less than one week and, in total, more than 4.1 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 have been vaccinated so far.

"This is incredible progress," Barsoumian said. "Go get ‘em kids!"

You also may be interested in...

Don't Hesitate: Vaccinate Today for School

Article
8/13/2021
A boy gets the COVID-19 vaccine

Back to School Means Vaccine Time

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Immunization Healthcare Division | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Vaccine Recommendations | Children's Health | Immunizations | Information for Patients: About TRICARE

MHS and MOS Town Hall To Your Health: Back to School

Article
8/10/2021
Infographic about the To Your Health Town Hall

MHS and Military OneSource presents a summer safety discussion with experts about Back to School Vaccinations and Beyond

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare Division | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Children's Health

Austin Seeks Presidential Approval for Mandatory Troop Vaccinations by Mid-September

Article
8/10/2021
Sailors receive COVID-19 vaccinations

The COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory for service members by mid-September, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a message to the force released yesterday.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Top Military Medical Doctor Predicts Coronavirus Longevity

Article
8/9/2021
Army Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, director of Defense Health Agency, delivers remarks at a media briefing on COVID-19 at the Pentagon, April 21, 2021

I believe we will get to a place where we're not talking about COVID all the time

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Senior Medical Leaders Discuss COVID-19 Response

Article
8/6/2021
Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald J. Place, director of the Defense Health Agency making remarks

The keys to tackling the emerging COVID-19 pandemic were to quickly develop a comprehensive understanding of the virus, and then put a plan in place to fight it, says DHA Director.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Debunking Anti-Vaccine Myths with Scientific Facts

Article
8/5/2021
A soldier gets a shot in the arm.

Get the facts: Myths on why not to get COVID-19 vaccination debunked by science

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

How You Can Prevent This Cancer-Causing Sexually Transmitted Infection

Article
8/4/2021
Doctor talking to a boy

Get the HPV vaccinations for cancer prevention if you haven’t already

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | Immunizations

COVID-19 Vaccines: Benefits Still Outweigh the Risks

Article
7/30/2021
Military personnel getting vaccinated

Breakthrough COVID-19 Infections are extremely rare, DHA’s Place says

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

DOD Directs Employees to Start Wearing Face Masks Again

Article
7/29/2021
Military personnel wearing a face masks

Following guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the DOD has directed employees working in areas at high risk for transmission to begin using face masks again

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

It’s Not Over Yet: Some COVID Safety Precautions Remain Necessary

Article
7/22/2021
a crowd of people

Returning to society when fully vaccinated is great but keep that mask handy.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

How COVID-19 fast-tracked innovation in the Military Health System

Article
7/20/2021
Military personnel receiving the COVID-19 test

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every aspect of healthcare delivery, the Military Health System responded with new and innovative ways to fight the disease and deliver safe, quality care to patients.

Recommended Content:

| Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

COVID Vaccinations Rise -- But So Do Concerns of the Delta Variant

Article
7/1/2021
Military personnel wearing a face mask preparing a COVID-19 vaccine

MHS expected to reach 70% COVID-10 vaccination rate in July.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

New COVID-19 Delta Variant: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

Article
6/28/2021
Military personnel receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 Delta variant spreading rapidly; it’s time to get vaccinated

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Retinopathy of Prematurity, Important Focus for Military Eye Doctors

Article
6/23/2021
Health personnel conducting a morning assessment on an infant

Retinopathy of Prematurity is a little-known disease with big risks.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | MHS GENESIS: The Electronic Health Record | Centers of Excellence

NMRTU Everett pediatrician continues to provide patient-centered care

Article
6/11/2021
Military health personnel wearing a face mask examining a new born baby

NMRTU pediatrician cares for her patients, one child at a time.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 16
Refine your search
Last Updated: January 24, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery