Questions (and Answers) About Children and Teens and COVID-19 Vaccines

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Everyone ages 6 months and older should get a COVID-19 vaccine to protect their health. Research shows the vaccines are beneficial and have mild side effects. As a parent or caregiver, you may have questions about how safe the vaccines are for children and how well they work. This fact sheet answers common questions.

collage of children

Why should my child get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Children and teens are just as likely as adults to get COVID-19. It can cause short- and long-term health problems. Some die from COVID-19. Vaccines can stop serious illness and death from COVID-19.

How do I know the vaccines work in children?

Studies show that the vaccines make infection and serious illness less likely in children. Studies also show that the vaccines make it less likely children will have long-term health problems from COVID-19. Millions of children and teens have gotten the COVID-19 vaccines. This gives researchers a lot of real-world information showing that the vaccines work.

The evidence is clear. The vaccines protect against serious illness or death due to COVID-19.

How do I know the vaccines are safe for my child?

The U.S. approved COVID-19 vaccines only after research showed they were safe, first in adults and then in children.

Scientists and safety experts continue to monitor the effects of the vaccines. Millions of children and teens have gotten the vaccines, and scientists have watched for any serious side effects in these children.

How are COVID-19 vaccine studies for children different from those for adults?

Study size: COVID-19 vaccine trials with children don’t need as many volunteers because the vaccine is studied in adults first. With adults, researchers see if the vaccine works by comparing the number of vaccinated and unvaccinated people who get COVID-19. Researchers then measure children’s immune response to the vaccine and compare it to the immune responses of vaccinated adults.

Safety: In studies with children, researchers watch for health problems that affect children. Pediatric doctors and nurses help the researchers. Even now, health agencies continue to watch vaccines for safety problems.

Consent: Informed consent means that a research volunteer has clear information about the study. Volunteers can ask questions before signing up. They can also drop out at any time. In a study with children:

  • A child’s parent or guardian gives informed consent for their child to be in the study.
  • Researchers explain the trial to the child.
  • Children ages 7 and up must also agree.

Do children get a different dose than adults do?

Yes. Young children and adults respond differently to medicines and vaccines. That’s because as children grow and change, so do their immune systems. Researchers studied what dose to give children of different ages. The right dose provides the best protection with the fewest side effects. 

  • Young people ages 12 years and older get the same dose as adults do.
  • Children 11 years and younger get smaller doses based on their age.

Will the vaccine have side effects?

Maybe. Some children and teens have soreness at the injection site, headaches, muscle aches, and low fevers. These side effects are normal and usually go away in a few days. Some children and teens have no side effects from the vaccine.

Rarely, some children and teens have heart problems after the vaccine. Either their heart muscle swells (a condition called myocarditis) or the outer sac around the heart swells (pericarditis). This has mostly happened to older boys and young men. Few people have these problems.

Most people with these heart issues feel better soon after taking medicine and resting. COVID-19 is more likely to cause heart problems than the vaccine is.

Will my child need a booster shot?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness and death. Still, the vaccines become less effective over time. Children ages 5 and older should receive a booster shot at least five months after their primary series. This provides longer-lasting protection. Studies on booster doses for children younger than 5 are in progress.

Is it safe to get other vaccines at the same time?

Yes. Children can safely get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other routine vaccines.

Should my child get vaccinated if they’ve already had COVID-19?

Yes. Research shows that people are more protected by being fully vaccinated than by just having been infected with COVID-19.

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Last updated: October 10, 2022