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COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids and Teens: Your Questions, Answered

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 ice, 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 vaccine?

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 in the same way in kids and teenagers as they do 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 now, 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 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 children cases, 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, somewhere between 0.00% - 0.03% (3 in 10,000) of children who got COVID-19 died, according to the AAP.

The other thing to keep in mind is that your unvaccinated child 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 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 vaccine for kids under 12

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. The Pfizer vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 uses a dose that's only one-third the amount of the COVID-19 vaccination approved for ages 12 and older with no change in effectiveness.

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 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.

What’s the best way to talk with kids and teens about getting vaccinated?

Kids take many cues from parents and adults. Explain that getting vaccinated will help get things back to normal, but also make sure to lead by example. If you haven't gotten it yet, schedule your COVID-19 vaccine today.

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