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COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids and Teens

Friday, May 14, 2021

By Mark Sannes, MD, Infectious Disease

Ah, summer... If you’re a kid or teenager, it’s that magical time of year where the energy is high, the responsibilities are low, and you’re making memories and friendships to last for years. Yet with COVID-19 still going around, will the summer of 2021 look anything like it has in years past?

Thanks to the hard work of many scientists, doctors and other experts, COVID-19 vaccines are now available for children 12 years old or older. That means the forecast is looking good for a more regular summer.

But understandably, we’ve heard a lot of questions about COVID-19 vaccines for people under 18: Are side effects worse for kids and teens? Is there a risk of infertility later if a child or teen gets vaccinated now? What if other vaccines are needed, too?

My colleagues and I recommend everyone eligible get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can – including kids and teens. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common questions about COVID-19 vaccination for minors.

Is it safe for kids and teens to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, it’s very safe.

The COVID-19 vaccines work the same way in kids and teenagers as they do in adults – there are no additional risks, extra hazards or unusual side effects. The vaccines were extensively tested before their use was authorized by public health officials. Children and teenagers responded to the vaccine in the same, normal way adults did.

I heard COVID-19 vaccines could cause infertility later in life. Is that true?

No, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines affect development or fertility.

The vaccines don’t change the body’s DNA or functioning in any way. Instead, they teach the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the coronavirus in case it’s ever encountered.

The immune system is totally separate from the reproductive system, so there’s no reason to believe a vaccine would affect fertility, future offspring, or growth and development. But if you still have questions, you can definitely talk with a doctor or talk with a nurse.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective in kids and teens?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines have been observed to be just as effective in kids and teens as they are in adults. (In fact, the Pfizer vaccine is even more effective in kids and teens than in adults!)

Once vaccinated, a child or teenager has a much, much lower risk of developing COVID-19, with the greatest protection coming against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

That means getting a COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best things you can do for your child or teen. More than just helping things get back to normal now, it’ll set them up for even better health in the future.

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 to get the second one in order to be considered fully immunized.

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.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine side effects (PDF)

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.

Can a COVID-19 vaccine be given at the same time as other shots?

Unfortunately, no: COVID-19 vaccines cannot be given at the same time as other shots. There should be a 14-day gap between any dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and other immunizations.

It’s important kids and teens keep up with their doctor-recommended vaccination schedule while also getting protected against COVID-19. In most cases, we recommend getting a COVID-19 vaccine first.

If you’re not sure about the best schedule for shots, talk with your child’s doctor. Also keep in mind you can schedule future vaccination appointments any time your child receives a vaccination – your doctor, nurse or scheduler will help you with the right timing.

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 COVID-19 vaccine 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 vaccines 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, struggling with masks – 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 vaccine helps others stay safe and healthy. If they’re active in a club or sport, explain how the vaccine will enable them do those things in a normal way again. Or if they’re a curious sort, talk about how the vaccines are cool new discoveries they can be a part of. No matter what inspires your kid, chances are you can talk about the vaccine in those terms to bring things down to their level.

How can kids and teens get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Due to privacy laws, kids and teens can’t make their own COVID-19 vaccine appointments online. But it’s still easy to set up an appointment in other ways.

COVID-19 vaccine appointments for teenagers (ages 13 through 17)

13- through 17-year-old patients should call a clinic to schedule a vaccination appointment. Teenagers don’t need their parents or guardians to set up an appointment.

In addition, parents or guardians who have proxy access to their child’s record can schedule online on their child’s behalf. They can also schedule for their child by calling a clinic.

COVID-19 vaccine appointments for 12 year olds

12-year-old patients must have a parent or guardian make a vaccination appointment. Parents or guardians can schedule online for their child or call a clinic.

Do I need to be with my child when they get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, a parent or guardian should 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.

Where can I get more information on the COVID-19 vaccines?

My colleagues and I are constantly updating our COVID-19 vaccine information so you always have the latest facts and details.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines

For so many, COVID-19 vaccines being available for kids and teenagers is another step on the return path toward a “normal” childhood: summer camp up north, evenings at the park under hazy sunsets, ball games and bike rides, and so much more.

We’re excited to offer these vaccines to our patients and community, and we – just like you – look forward to putting this pandemic behind us soon.