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 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? Read on for some of the most common questions about COVID-19 vaccination for kids and teens.
What’s the youngest age for a COVID-19 vaccination?
Thanks to the hard work of many scientists, doctors and other experts, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children 5 years old or older.
Is the COVID vaccine safe for kids?
Yes. The vaccine is shown to be safe in children ages 5 and up.
The COVID-19 vaccine works the same way in 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 has been shown to be just as effective in kids and teens as it is in adults. Once vaccinated, a child or teenager has a much lower risk of developing COVID-19, with the greatest protection coming against severe illness, hospitalization and death.
So what about breakthrough COVID-19? It’s true that some people can get COVID-19 after getting the vaccine, but it’s extremely unlikely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unvaccinated people are five times more likely to get infected, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
That means getting a COVID-19 vaccine is still one of the best things you can do for your child or teen. More than just helping things get back to normal, it’ll set them up for even better health in the future.
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, including the more contagious delta variant.
However, because some new variants are more contagious, the CDC recommends that vaccinated people also continue to wear masks in indoor public spaces like schools (and sometimes outdoors as well).
Does it take any longer for kids or teens to develop protection after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
Nope – 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. Do they really need the COVID-19 vaccine?
It’s a good idea to vaccinate your kids because more kids are getting COVID-19. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one in four new COVID-19 cases are in children. And these numbers add up – both Minnesota and Wisconsin have had over 150,000 positive COVID-19 cases in children, according to the AAP.
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 because of their symptoms. And in the states reporting deaths following illness with COVID-19, up to 0.03% (3 in 10,000) of children who got COVID-19 died, according to the AAP.
Plus, when your child gets vaccinated, they are much less likely to contract the coronavirus and less likely to spread it as well. If your child gets COVID-19, they can pose a risk to others, including younger children who can’t get vaccinated, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly. Even a mild case of COVID-19 can spread, and if someone else gets it – like a sickly grandparent – the symptoms may be much more severe.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine for children different?
Children receive the same vaccine as adults. However, for younger children, the doses may vary. Here’s how it breaks down:
The COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 through 17
COVID-19 vaccine dosing for children who are 12-17 years old is the same as in adults.
The COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 12
Based on the latest data, younger children will receive a smaller dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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.
Studies have shown that young children need less vaccine than older children and adults to get the same level of protective antibodies. For example, the Pfizer vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 uses a dose that’s only one-third the amount of the adult COVID-19 vaccination – with no change in effectiveness.
When will public health officials lower the COVID-19 vaccination age limit?
There are ongoing clinical studies in children between 6 months and 5 years old to determine the safety, effectiveness and appropriate dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Once there’s enough information from these studies, it’ll be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for review. Because data is still on the way, it’s too soon to say when children under 5 might be able to be vaccinated.
Why does 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 need 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?
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.
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 kids as it does for adults.
That’s why we strongly recommend that you get your child vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.
What pediatricians are saying about the COVID-19 vaccines for children
What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects for kids and teens?
The side effects in kids and teens 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 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and there are only a few thousand reported cases of myocarditis or pericarditis.
In the rare event that inflammation happens after getting a COVID-19 vaccination, it is usually very mild and people make a full recovery. It’s also important to remember that myocarditis and pericarditis are known complications of the COVID-19 infection. So if your child gets COVID-19, they are more likely to get heart inflammation than they are from the COVID-19 vaccine.
Health officials continue to recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for all children over the age of five because the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine are much greater than the potential risks of myocarditis and pericarditis. But if you have concerns about the vaccine and your child’s health, talk with a doctor.
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 has had a tough time with the COVID-19 pandemic – being away from friends and family, missing favorite activities – explain that getting vaccinated will help things get back to normal again. Emphasize that after they get their COVID-19 vaccine, we’ll all be one step closer to putting the pandemic (and its changes) behind us.
- 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. If they’re active in a club or sport, explain how the vaccine will enable them to do those things in a normal way again. 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, 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 kids and teens keep up with their doctor-recommended vaccination schedule while also getting protected against COVID-19.
Can my child get a COVID-19 booster shot?
The CDC presently recommends that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive a third dose of their Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series. If your child has a weakened immune system, talk to your doctor to learn if they should get an additional dose at this time.
We’re still waiting for guidance from public health authorities about whether all children younger than 18 years old should get a booster shot.
Where can I get more information on the COVID-19 vaccine?
We are constantly updating our COVID-19 vaccine information, so you always have the latest facts and details.
For so many, the COVID-19 vaccine being available for kids and teenagers is another step on the return path toward a “normal” childhood: skating and sledding in the winter, making mudpies as the weather warms, summer camp up north, trick-or-treating at Halloween, and so much more.
We’re excited to offer COVID-19 vaccines to our patients and community, and just like you, we look forward to putting this pandemic behind us soon.