Raising happy, healthy children is never easy, but COVID-19 made it more challenging for parents everywhere. You want to keep your kiddos safe at daycare, school, on the playground, and when visiting friends and family. But what’s the best way of doing that?
In most cases, a COVID-19 vaccine is a big part of the answer. So, what do you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and who can get one? We share answers to some of the most common questions about COVID-19 vaccination for infants, kids and teens.
What’s the youngest age for a COVID-19 vaccination?
The COVID-19 vaccine is available for children 6 months old and older.
Is the COVID vaccine safe for kids?
Yes. The vaccine is shown to be safe in children ages 6 months old and older.
The COVID-19 vaccine works the same way in infants, kids and teenagers as it does in adults – there are no additional risks, extra hazards or unusual side effects. The vaccine was extensively tested before public health officials authorized its use. Children and teenagers responded to the vaccine in the same, normal way adults did.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective in kids and teens?
Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine gives your child excellent protection against the coronavirus. Once vaccinated, an infant, kid or teenager has a much lower risk of developing COVID-19, with the greatest protection coming against severe illness, hospitalization and death.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective against new variants?
Yes. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine drastically reduces your child’s chance of getting variants of the coronavirus that cause COVID-19.
Does it take any longer for infants, kids or teens to develop protection after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
No. Just like in adults, it takes about two weeks after the final dose to build up protection. So, if a COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses, it’s very important for your child to get the second one in order to be considered fully immunized.
I’ve heard that children don’t get as sick with COVID-19. Should children and teens still get the COVID-19 vaccine?
It’s true that most children don’t get as sick when they get COVID-19 – but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Children have still been hospitalized and died because of their symptoms.
It’s also important to remember that your child’s symptoms may not end when their COVID-19 infection goes away. After COVID-19, children can experience long-term symptoms that could last for weeks or months.
We know that being vaccinated reduces the chance your child gets sick. And if they get breakthrough COVID-19 after being vaccinated, they may be less likely to have lingering symptoms – studies show that, in adults, the chance of getting long COVID is 50% lower if you’re fully vaccinated.
Also, keep in mind that your unvaccinated child can pose a risk to others, including people with weakened immune systems and the elderly. Even a mild case of COVID-19 can spread, and if someone else gets it – like an immunocompromised grandparent – they may need treatments to protect against severe COVID-19.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine for children different?
No. Children receive the same vaccine as adults. However, for younger children, the doses may be different.
Studies show that young children need less vaccine than older children and adults to get the same level of protective antibodies.
The dosage amount isn’t determined by body weight, like many childhood medicines. Instead, dosage is based on the maturity of the body’s immune system and how much vaccine is needed to produce the antibodies to protect against COVID-19.
Dosing also differs between vaccines. If you have questions about timing your child’s vaccine doses, talk with your doctor.
Pfizer vaccine for children 6 months through 17 years old
The Pfizer vaccine is available for all children 6 months and older. Here’s the dosing by age:
- 6 months through 4 years old: Children in this age group receive three doses that are one-tenth the strength of the adult vaccine. The first two doses are given three to eight weeks apart, with the third given two months later.
- 5 through 11 years old: These kids get two doses three to eight weeks apart. Each dose is one-third the amount of the adult vaccine.
- 12 through 17 years old: Older kids and teens receive the same dosing as adults in two shots given three to eight weeks apart.
Moderna vaccine for children 6 months through 17 years old
The Moderna vaccine was approved for children 6 and older, but it’s no longer available. While the vaccine was safe and effective, the manufacturer isn’t making more. Talk to your doctor if your child didn’t get all doses of their Moderna vaccine – they’ll likely recommend that your child get another vaccine manufacturer for the remaining doses.
Why did COVID-19 vaccine authorization take longer for children?
A child’s body is not just a small version of an adult’s body. There are lots of differences that go beyond height and weight. One of these differences is how the immune systems works. While an adult’s immune system has been built up by exposure to pathogens over the years, a child’s immune system is still maturing.
So, while scientists knew how the COVID-19 vaccine worked with an adult’s immune system, they couldn’t be sure that a child’s would respond to the vaccine in the same way. That’s why we needed clinical studies to make sure the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for different age groups, provide a good level of protection and that the doses are the right size.
Should I wait to vaccinate my child?
No. The safety and effectiveness of the vaccine is well proven. The COVID-19 vaccine has been available for older children for quite some time, providing incredible protection against COVID-19. That’s why we strongly recommend that you get your child vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.
While vaccine doses for younger children may be smaller, it’s still the same proven vaccine that’s been used in hundreds of millions of people. And, getting the vaccine provides the same level of protection for children as it does for adults.
What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects for infants, kids and teens?
The side effects in children are the same as in adults: temporary, mild to moderate, and manageable with over-the-counter remedies.
In a few cases, we’ve seen kids and teens feel side effects a bit more strongly than adults. But that’s actually a good thing: Younger people tend to have more robust immune systems, so it’s a sign the vaccine is creating a healthy response as it trains the body.
What should I know about the COVID-19 vaccine and heart problems?
You may have heard that some people had inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis) after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The chance of this happening is extremely rare. In the U.S., people have received over 550 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and there are only a few thousand reported cases of myocarditis or pericarditis. While the chance of heart inflammation is low for everyone, it’s more likely to occur in males between the ages of 12–39 years. In the rare event that inflammation happens after getting a COVID-19 vaccination, it’s usually very mild and people make a full recovery.
Health officials continue to recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for all children over the age of five because if your child gets infected with COVID-19, they are more likely to get heart inflammation than they would from the COVID-19 vaccine.
To reduce the risk of heart inflammation from the COVID-19 vaccine, the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now say that “an 8-week interval may be optimal for people who are not immunocompromised and ages 12-64 years, especially for males ages 12–39 years.”
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility later in life?
No. There’s no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects development or fertility.
The vaccine doesn’t change the body’s DNA or functioning in any way. Instead, it teaches the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the coronavirus in case it’s ever encountered.
What’s the best way to talk with kids and teens about getting vaccinated?
Some kids or teenagers might have a hard time understanding the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. If you’re a parent and you’re not sure how to discuss COVID-19 vaccinations with your child, here are a few tips we recommend:
- Lead by example. Your kids take a lot of their cues from you, so if you haven’t gotten it yet, schedule your own COVID-19 vaccination. After you’re vaccinated, you’ll be able to answer any questions your kids have about the process firsthand. Plus, if you call a clinic, you may even be able to schedule your and your child’s COVID-19 vaccinations at the same time so you all can do it together as a family. Maybe get some ice cream on the way home, too!
- Use their pandemic experiences. If your child had a tough time with the COVID-19 pandemic – being away from friends and family, missing favorite activities – explain that getting vaccinated can help reduce how COVID-19 affects our lives in the future.
- Know what your child is motivated by. For example, if your kid likes to help, explain how getting a COVID-19 vaccination helps others stay safe and healthy. Or if they’re a curious sort, talk about how the vaccine is a cool new discovery they can be a part of. No matter what inspires your kid, chances are you can talk about the vaccine in a way that will bring things down to their level.
How can kids and teens get a COVID-19 vaccine?
It’s easy to set up an appointment for your child or teenager: Patients under 18 years old, or their parent or guardian, can schedule online or call a primary care clinic
Keep in mind that for patients younger than 18 years old, additional information about the patient’s parent or guardian must be provided in order to schedule the appointment.
Do I need to be with my child when they get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, a parent or guardian must attend vaccine appointments with their child. This is an important thing to remember (especially for teenagers who can drive themselves): Parental consent is required for anyone under 18 years old to be vaccinated.
Can a COVID-19 vaccine be given at the same time as other shots?
Yes. There’s no waiting period between receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and receiving other vaccines. That means kids can get vaccinated on any schedule, or get multiple vaccinations at the same appointment.
It’s especially important that children keep up with their doctor-recommended vaccination schedule while also getting protected against COVID-19.
Can my child get a COVID-19 bivalent vaccine or booster shot?
Children over the age of 6 months old can now get the bivalent vaccine, either as part of their initial vaccine series or as a booster shot.
Bivalent COVID-19 vaccines became available in the fall of 2022. These vaccines are different from the original vaccines because they contain components of both the Omicron and Wuhan strains of the coronavirus. The older versions of the vaccine were monovalent, containing only the Wuhan strain. Because Omicron is now the most common strain, scientists believe the bivalent vaccine will reduce the number of people who get sick or have severe symptoms.
For children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years old who get the Pfizer vaccine, the bivalent vaccine will be the third shot in their initial vaccine series. Children younger than 4 years old, who have already received three doses of the Pfizer monovalent vaccine, can get a booster dose of the Pfizer bivalent vaccine once it’s been two months from their initial series.
All other children over six months old can get the bivalent vaccine as a booster shot two months after their last dose – either following the completion of their initial series or their last booster dose.
If your child gets sick with COVID-19, they should wait two months before getting a bivalent booster.
Additional doses for children who are immunocompromised
The CDC recommends that some moderately to severely immunocompromised children receive additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pfizer dosing for immunocompromised children
If your child is 6 months old through 4 years old, they receive the same number of doses as non-immunocompromised children. The first and second doses are given three weeks apart, and the third dose is given at least eight weeks after the second.
If your immunocompromised child is 5 years old or older, they should receive an immunocompromised dose 28 days after their second dose of the vaccine. They should also get a booster shot two months after their immunocompromised dose.
If your child had a booster shot before October 2022, they should get another booster once it’s been two months.
If your child has a weakened immune system, talk to your doctor to learn if they should get any additional doses.
Moderna dosing for immunocompromised children
The Moderna vaccine is no longer available. If your young child is immunocompromised and didn’t get all the doses of their Moderna vaccine, talk to your doctor about what to do next.
Keep your kids and our community safe
Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines and the safety precautions you and others have taken since 2020, life is feeling more normal again. But COVID-19 isn’t over – it’s still causing new infections and deaths each day. The good news is that most severe illnesses and deaths can be prevented by getting vaccinated.
We all want our kids to do the things that make childhood fun and give them the opportunity to visit with friends and learn in a social setting. The COVID-19 vaccines can keep them safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 so our kids can keep doing the things they love.