The COVID-19 Pandemic has undoubtedly taken its toll on student-athletes. Many have seen their playing seasons vanish or shortened. These athletes have also adapted to online learning, restricted practices, restricted training access, canceled games, shortened seasons, and playing in front of empty seats. The Pandemic has put stressors on families and society. All of this can be taxing, especially on younger athletes.
This fall, the COVID-19 vaccination has opened up to include elementary, junior high, and high school-aged youth. While many adults can be vaccinated, the rollout to younger men and women is new. And with the COVID-19 vaccination comes additional anxiety.
Vaccinations are not new to most youth in America. Most have been vaccinated as an infant and continue to receive vaccinations as a requirement for school and sport participation. There are 14 immunizations available and administered from infancy up through high school. These vaccinations include Hepatitis A & B, chickenpox, measles, polio, tetanus, and the annual flu shot.
There is no doubt youth immunization programs have saved lives and improved the overall health of young people. While this is a routine many are familiar with, shots or vaccinations can be intimidating.
One way to address anxiety is through communication and education. Your young athlete needs to understand how immunizations can protect themselves, their teammates and allow for a long and healthy athletic career well beyond school.
Some general questions to address may include:
Do Vaccines Cause Autism?
The National Institutes of Health reviewed more than 20 major scientific studies and concluded there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism.
Are vaccines more dangerous than the diseases they protect against?
No. The safety and effectiveness of vaccines are tested in well-controlled scientific studies before they are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. There may be some mild side effects, but these are much less severe than the disease against which they are protecting.
The ACIP also advises whether the new vaccine should be added to the Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule.
Do vaccines have side effects?
All vaccines can produce side effects which often include pain, redness, or tenderness where the injection is given. Though not common, serious side effects may occur, including allergic reactions, high fever, or seizures associated with fever.
Many young adults and adults can have a wide range of mild side effects from immunization. This is a sign the body is responding to the vaccination and is producing the necessary antibodies and structures to help the body fight off the real disease if it were to be introduced. A day or two with mild discomfort is a small inconvenience compared to the damaging effects many diseases can have on a person, not only immediately but well into old age.
What are other ways to help address the anxiety your young athlete may have regarding the COVID-19 vaccination or immunization shots in general?
- Please encourage them to perform balanced research on their own using reliable sources (not Insgarm or tiktok)
- Talk with the athlete about their fears and concerns. And make a joint effort to research and answer those issues.
- Have them talk to a trusted medical or health care professional such as their primary care physician, school nurse, team doctor, or athletic trainer.
- Set aside a “day off” following a vaccination. Make it a day of relaxation and maybe a few special treats, especially if they present some side effects.
It is also becoming more and more commonplace for COVID-19 vaccination to be a permitting factor in sport and entertainment. Some school districts and colleges have already made it a requirement to participate in a sport. While some who have had COVID-19 presented minimal or mild symptoms, others have had rather long illnesses and lasting side effects. This could significantly limit an athlete’s ability to train, condition, and play within their sport. Also, vaccination will help reduce the spread of illness to others and help ensure the team’s health overall. This could avoid having to forfeit games or playing seasons overall.
There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety with the COVID-19 global Pandemic. There can be many conflicting stories, commentary, and views. The best way to address any anxiety is to ease the fear with education. Mankind has utilized forms of inoculation for many centuries, and there is a proven track record of science and immunization saving lives. An athlete’s benefits far outweigh mild side effects and can help get their game back on track sooner rather than later.
If you have any questions or concerns about vaccines, please talk with your pediatrician.