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October 14, 2021

I'm a parent or caregiver. What should I know about vaccines for children and teens?

The answers on this site were developed with and vetted by the CDC

In the United States, everyone age 12 and up is currently eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that everyone in this group get vaccinated as soon as they can.

At this time, children and teens aged 12 and up are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Those younger than 12 years of age are not.

Before the COVID-19 vaccines were authorized by the FDA, clinical trials showed vaccines to be remarkably safe and effective for adults and teens age 16 and up. Trials involved tens of thousands of volunteers.

After getting more safety data for younger teens, the FDA broadened authorization to include children and teens age 12 and older. Clinical trials are underway for children as young as six months.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will help keep children and teens from getting seriously ill even if they do get COVID-19.

Dr Peggy Stager MD
The Science Behind COVID-19 Vaccines: Parent FAQs (AAP)

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How do vaccines work for kids?

The COVID-19 vaccine works similarly to other vaccines your child or teen may have had. Germs such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, invade and multiply inside the body. The vaccine stops this by teaching the immune system to recognize and make antibodies to fight the virus. After vaccination, your child or teen has less of a chance of getting COVID-19. If they do get infected with the virus, they may not be as sick as they would without the vaccine.

What are the benefits of vaccination for children?

Getting your child or teen vaccinated will protect them from getting COVID-19. Although fewer children and teens have been infected with COVID-19 than adults, they can still catch the virus, get sick, and spread COVID-19 to others. The vaccines will help protect the people around them, like those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or those who can’t get vaccinated.

After vaccination, your child or teen has a lower chance of getting COVID-19. If they do get infected with the virus, they may not be as sick as they would without the vaccine.

When You've Been Fully Vaccinated: How to Protect Yourself and Others (CDC)
Is the vaccine safe for my child?

Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for children and teens age 12 and up. COVID-19 vaccination effort is being monitored more closely than any public health initiative in U.S. history. Safety studies have included adolescents, and show the vaccines are safe for this age group.

Like adults, children and teens might have some side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, such as site injection pain, headache, fever and muscle ache. These side effects might affect your child or teen's ability to do daily activities, but they should go away within a few days.

CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners recommend that children and teens age 12 and older get vaccinated against COVID-19. If you have questions or concerns, talk to a healthcare professional.

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens (CDC)
Will this impact my child's reproductive development?

No, the COVID-19 vaccines don't affect puberty or a child or teen's reproductive development in any way. Given that the vaccine's mRNA molecule mimics a natural human process, medical experts are confident that the vaccines are safe for growing bodies.

The Science Behind the COVID-19 Vaccine: Parent FAQs (AAP)
Dr Susan Huang MD
Are there any long term side effects on children?

Serious side effects that would cause a long-term health problem are highly unlikely following a COVID-19 vaccine.

Long-term side effects following any vaccine are extremely rare. Historically, vaccine monitoring has shown that if side effects are going to happen, they tend to happen within six weeks of a vaccine dose.

For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration made sure each of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines was studied for at least eight weeks after the final dose. Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected.

The Science Behind COVID-19 Vaccines: Parent FAQs (AAP)
Can COVID-19 vaccines lead to heart inflammation in children and teens?

There have been a small number of reported cases of heart inflammation following a COVID-19 vaccine. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. Incidents have mostly been reported among mostly male adolescents and young adults who have received an mRNA vaccine. Among the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses given, these reports are rare.

Symptoms of these rare cases included chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart. Most patients with myocarditis who received care responded well to treatment and rest and quickly felt better.

CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) continue to recommend that everyone 12 years of age and older be vaccinated against COVID-19. If you have questions or concerns, talk to a healthcare professional.

Myocarditis and Pericarditis Following mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination (CDC)
Should my child still wear a mask once they're fully vaccinated?

If your child is fully vaccinated, they can start to safely resume many activities. However, with the more contagious Delta variant circulating across the United States, health experts are encouraging all people to wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. This will maximize protection against the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others.

If someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is not yet vaccinated, or is at increased risk for severe disease, your child might wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status or the level of transmission in your area.

Your child should continue to wear a mask where required by laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance. CDC is continuing to update guidelines as more information becomes available, so please visit their website for the latest information.

When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated (CDC)
Is the COVID-19 vaccine available for children under age 12?

There is no vaccine authorized yet for children under age 12. Vaccines are currently being tested for safety and efficacy in children aged 2 and up. The results may lead to the FDA authorizing one or more COVID-19 vaccines for younger kids in the months ahead.

There are ways to protect your unvaccinated family members, including children under the age of 12. These include getting vaccinated to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. To maximize protection from the Delta variant, it’s recommended that everyone in a family (even those who are vaccinated) wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.

Health experts also recommend that children between the ages of 2 and 12 wear a mask in public spaces around people they don’t live with.

If your family member is younger than 2 years old and cannot wear a mask, you should limit visits with people who are not vaccinated, or whose vaccination status is unknown, and keep distance between your child and other people in public.

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens (CDC)
What should I know about keeping my child safe from variants?

Vaccines in the US are highly effective, including against the Delta variant. Given what we know about the Delta variant, and until vaccines are approved for children under age 12, experts recommend having your child wear a mask to help protect them.

Looking for a vaccine? Visit the Vaccine Finder to get up-to-date information on locations near you.


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