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February 23, 2024

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children: FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines and children

Why should children get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Medical and public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommend that children and adolescents ages 6 months and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect them from contracting and spreading the virus. More than 13 million children in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and COVID-19 has caused serious illness, complications and even death in hundreds of children and teens.

COVID-19 is the fifth leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4. And the CDC has found that the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 in adolescents was about three times greater than hospitalizations linked to influenza over three recent flu seasons, lending urgency to the drive to vaccinate children. Children can also transmit the virus and must still quarantine if exposed.

The majority of children aren’t getting severely ill from COVID-19, so why is it important to get them vaccinated?

While most children with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, COVID-19 has caused serious illness, complications, and even death in hundreds of children and teens. Children with underlying health conditions may be more likely to become severely ill.

Another important reason for children to get the COVID-19 vaccine is to protect their friends, parents, grandparents, teachers and the broader community. And being vaccinated will allow kids to get back to, and hold onto, the things they have missed, including consistent in-person school, going to large holiday and family gatherings, playing with friends, and participating in sports and other organized activities. 

Finally, COVID-19 vaccines also reduce the risk of MIS-C, a serious condition of multisystem inflammation that has affected over 7,500 children in the United States during the pandemic, including 48 children whose deaths were associated with MIS-C.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?

Yes. The FDA and CDC have carefully reviewed the clinical trials for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Based on data from clinical trials involving several thousand children, they have concluded that the vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 6 months and older.

Parents and guardians can now enroll adolescents ages 6 months and older in v-safe, a free, smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after your child receives a COVID-19 vaccination. Through v-safe, you can report any side effects your child may have after vaccination. V-safe also reminds you to get your child’s second dose. Learn more about v-safe here.

When can my child get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Everyone in the United States ages 6 months and older is now recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine. All children ages 12 and older are recommended for the updated COVID-19 booster shot that was specially designed to strengthen immunity against the original coronavirus strain and protect against the newer Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5.

Which vaccine should my child take?

For the youngest children, two options are available:

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine: 

  • Available for ages 6 months to 4 years. 
  • Three doses total, the first two separated by three to eight weeks; the third dose at least eight weeks after the second dose. 
  • All three doses must be received in order for your child to be protected. 
  • These shots are 3 micrograms, one-tenth of the adult dosage.

The Moderna vaccine: 

  • Available for ages 6 months to 5 years. 
  • Two doses, four to eight weeks apart. 
  • These shots are one-fourth of the adult dosage.

Children ages 5 to 17 are eligible for a two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. And, as of June 2022, children ages 6 to 17 are eligible for a two-dose Moderna vaccine. 

What side effects do children experience from the vaccine?

Children may experience mild side effects, such as soreness in the arm, fatigue, headache, or a slight fever, and most will pass in one to two days. These are signs that their body is building immunity, but even if they don’t experience any side effects, their immune system is still building protection against the virus. Serious side effects are rare.

What about long-term effects?

According to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the history of vaccines shows that delayed effects following vaccination can occur. But when they do, these effects tend to happen within two months of vaccination.  Because of the knowledge gained with other vaccines, the FDA required companies making COVID-19 vaccines to follow trial participants for a minimum of eight weeks before they could submit their data for approval. Likewise, the participants in the vaccine trials continue to be followed even though the vaccines have been authorized for use. The CDC and FDA have not identified any long-term effects from COVID-19 vaccines.

Which children cannot be vaccinated?

It is always best to check with your pediatrician or trusted healthcare provider about vaccinations. If your child has a significant health issue or a compromised immune system, your doctor may recommend they not get vaccinated.

Will children be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to attend school?

COVID-19 vaccination requirements for public schools vary according to local requirements. All 50 states require certain immunizations — including tetanus, measles, polio, and chickenpox vaccinations — and some states have additional requirements. Regardless of any requirement, all children who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible in order to protect themselves and others from catching and spreading the virus.

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

Yes. Both the CDC and AAP have stated that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine with other routine immunizations is safe and acceptable.

What about myocarditis?

As of June 2022, about 260 million people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, and CDC continues to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for any health problems that happen after vaccination. There have been very rare instances of myocarditis and pericarditis in vaccinated teens and young adults after vaccination. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. In both cases, the body’s immune system causes inflammation in response to an infection or some other trigger. CDC and its partners are actively monitoring these reports, by reviewing data and medical records, to better understand any relationship to COVID-19 vaccination.

Most patients who received care responded well to treatment and rest and quickly felt better. Confirmed cases have occurred typically within several days after COVID-19 vaccination, and more frequently after the second dose than the first.

Patients can usually return to their normal daily activities after their symptoms improve. They should speak with their doctor about returning to exercise or sports.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective against the virus variants?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping people from getting the Omicron variant of COVID-19, getting very sick, and dying. The updated COVID-19 booster (made available in September 2022) improves your child's ability to prevent infection and, especially, to prevent serious illness.

Can my child receive the COVID-19 vaccine while menstruating?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and CDC, there’s no reason to put off getting vaccinated if someone is having their menstrual period. CDC and FDA have been closely monitoring safety data and have not seen any patterns of concern.

Will COVID-19 vaccines impact my child’s hormones or fertility?

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility side effects. COVID-19 vaccines don't affect puberty or a child's reproductive development. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and CDC recommend vaccination for all eligible people who may consider future pregnancy.

Do parents need to give consent before a vaccine is given to an eligible minor?

Federal law does not have a specific requirement for medical consent for vaccination of a minor. However, states and local jurisdictions do address when a medical provider must seek consent. This resource provides information to help you better understand the landscape of parental consent laws, including which states have such laws, for what ages, and where exceptions for COVID-19 vaccination have been made.

Does my child need to get the COVID-19 vaccine if they have already had the virus?

Yes. Your child should be vaccinated regardless of whether they already had COVID-19. Research has not yet shown how long anyone is protected from getting COVID-19 again after recovering from the virus, and vaccination is effective at protecting your child even if they’ve already had COVID-19. In fact, evidence is emerging that people get better protection by being fully vaccinated compared with having had COVID-19.

Where can my child get their COVID-19 vaccine? 

  • Call your child’s pediatrician first. Pediatricians’ offices are the most convenient option for catching up on other routine immunizations at the same time.  
  • In most states, children under the age of 3 may not receive a vaccine at a pharmacy. However, many other health centers and clinics will offer the vaccines.
  • If your pediatrician or healthcare provider does not offer COVID-19 vaccines, you can:
              Text your ZIP CODE to 438829
              Call 1-800-232-0233

How much does the COVID-19 vaccine for children cost?

Nothing. The federal government is providing vaccines free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status.

How can I prepare my child for the vaccine?

Talk with your child before the appointment, do not surprise them. Many parents may have concerns about how their child might act when they need an immunization. But there are simple ways to help make it a positive, calm experience. Use this checklist from the American Academy of Pediatrics to get your child ready for their COVID-19 vaccine.

What vaccines do my children need to be up-to-date on their routine immunizations?

Preteens and teens need four vaccines to protect against serious illnesses: 

  • The meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections;
  • HPV vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV;
  • TDap/DTap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough; 
  • And the yearly flu vaccine to protect against the seasonal flu. 

To make sure your preteen or teen is up-to-date with their vaccines, check with your pediatrician and confirm with CDC’s Vaccine Schedule for children ages 7 - 18

Children from birth through age 6 need multiple series of vaccinations to be protected from diseases such as the measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A and B, varicella and the seasonal flu. Check with your child’s pediatrician to confirm they are up-to-date with their immunizations in accordance with CDC’s Vaccine Schedule for Infants and Children.

Public health guidance on COVID-19 is constantly evolving. Health Action Alliance is committed to regularly updating our materials once we've engaged public health, business and communications experts about the implications of new guidance from the public health community and effective business strategies that align with public health goals.Together, we can turn the tide against COVID-19 and build a stronger, healthier future.