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November 22, 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 5 and older can now get vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that all eligible children get vaccinated as soon as they can.

At this time, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for children age 5 and older. Research has found that it strongly protects kids against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Clinical trials included thousands of children who were monitored by experts to ensure the vaccines were safe. Nearly 1 million kids have already received at least one dose since vaccines were authorized for ages 5 to 11.

It is also safe for children to get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other shots such as the flu vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines are free of charge for anyone living in the United States.

Dr Peggy Stager MD
COVID-19 Vaccine Checklist for Kids Age 5 and Up (AAP)

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How do COVID-19 vaccines work for kids?

The COVID-19 vaccine works similarly to other vaccines your child 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 being immunized, kids will have strong protection against COVID-19. Clinical trials with children aged 5-11 found the Pfizer vaccine to be 91% effective at preventing sickness from COVID-19 and provides strong protection against serious illness.

For kids aged 5 to 11, it’s important to note that the doses of each vaccine are actually smaller than the amount that an adult would receive. Clinical trials found that smaller doses created a strong immune response in kids while helping ensure safety. Kids need to receive both of the two doses in order to have full protection. If your child is 11 but about to turn 12, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends getting the dosage for your child’s current age.

My child is about to turn 12. Which COVID-19 vaccine should they get? (AAP)
What are the benefits of vaccination for children?

Getting your child vaccinated will protect them from getting COVID-19 and provide strong protection against serious illness or complications. Although fewer children and teens have had COVID-19 than adults, they can still catch the virus, get sick, and spread it to others. Vaccines help protect the people around them and can limit how long someone is contagious even if they do get sick. This includes family members, people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or people who can’t get vaccinated.

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 age 5 and up. The COVID-19 vaccines program is being watched more closely than any other public health effort in U.S. history. Clinical trials included thousands of children in these age groups. They found the authorized vaccines to be very safe and effective. Nearly 1 million kids have already received at least one dose since vaccines were authorized for ages 5 to 11.

Like adults, children and teens might have some side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. These include 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.

The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners recommend children age 5 and older should get COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they can. If you have questions or concerns, talk to a pediatrician or 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. There has been no evidence of vaccines impacting fertility or reproductive health in children or adults. 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?

It’s extremely unlikely that children would experience any serious side effects. Studies with children ages 5 to 11 have not found any evidence of long-term side effects. In the past, we have seen that side effects from vaccines usually happen within six weeks of getting the shot. The Food and Drug Administration has made sure each authorized COVID-19 vaccine was studied for at least eight weeks after the final dose.

It is very rare to find serious side effects after any vaccine. 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)
Why are doses different for kids aged 11 or younger?

If your child is 5 to 11 years old, then the COVID-19 vaccine dose they will get is very small — just 10 micrograms, which is one-third of the dose for older ages. Clinical trials found that this small amount is all it takes to prepare the immune system so it can stop germs from making someone sick.

Doses are based on age rather than weight because vaccines do not travel through the bloodstream to go to all parts of someone’s body like other medicines such as antibiotics. Vaccines actually don’t travel around your body at all. Instead, cells in your immune system go to the spot where the vaccine is given and create an immune response near the injection site.

My child is about to turn 12. Which COVID-19 vaccine should they get? (AAP)
Can COVID-19 vaccines lead to heart inflammation in teenagers?

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 teenagers 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)

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