Children ages 5 and up are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA, CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) all recommend vaccinating this group due to the benefits of the vaccine outweighing the known and potential risks. While the vaccine was most recently approved for ages 5 – 11, over 11 million shots have been administered to adolescents ages 12 and above since becoming available (the vaccine for ages 12 -15 was approved in May 2021 and 16 and above was approved in December 2020).
Considering the uncertainty the pandemic has posed over the last two years, parents may have questions about the vaccine. First and foremost, they should be assured that there are safeguards in place. Before recommending COVID-19 vaccination for children, scientists conducted clinical trials and are continuing to monitor the use of the vaccine. Learn more about the process of developing, authorizing, and approving COVID-19 vaccines. And although there are always concerns and risks with medical treatments and immunizations, there are also many unknowns about the virus that causes COVID. As such, for most people the benefits outweigh the risks.
Although children are at a lower risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 compared with adults, children can become infected and very sick. The vaccine has been proven to protect children from becoming infected with and getting very sick from the coronavirus. It also protects children from the long-term effects of COVID-19. With less chance of becoming sick, children are less likely to be absent from school and other activities and can more safely participate in sports, playdates, and other group activities. The COVID vaccine also benefits families and communities helping to reduce the spread of the virus to others. Reducing the spread helps protect those who can’t get vaccinated and those who may be at higher risk if they are infected (for example babies, younger children, and immune-compromised people.)
Like adults, there are challenges and risks when receiving the vaccine – kids may experience common side effects such as soreness, redness, and swelling in the arm at the site of the shot. They may also experience tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. These side effects usually go away within two to three days. There is a rare possibility of an allergic reaction and rare cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) in adolescents and young adults have been reported more often after getting the second dose than after the first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
Additionally, like the adult vaccine, the vaccine is free and often available at public clinics. To find a location near you, search www.vaccines.gov, text your zip code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233. Places that may provide the vaccine include:
- your child’s doctor or healthcare provider
- community clinics like schools and community centers
- the health department and
If you have children in your life, plan to get them vaccinated to protect them from becoming infected and seriously ill from COVID-19 as soon as possible. To learn more, the AAP put together a handy guide that is useful in learning more details about the vaccine and preparing kids to receive it. View it here.
Tonja Dodd, MPH, is a Senior Health Strategy Analyst at Vitality Group where she translates clinical guidelines into risk appropriate health promotion strategies to engage members in healthy behaviors. Her background is in public health with 25 years of experience designing, developing and delivering health and wellness programs and products. Tonja finds her healthy place is being active outdoors and spending time with family, friends and pets.