Conversation Guide: Pediatric Vaccinations

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the COVID-19 vaccination for everyone age 12 years old and older. The Pfizer vaccine is available for people ages 12 years old and older while the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are available for people ages 18 years old and older. Currently, there is no vaccine that has been approved for use for children under the age of 12 years old.

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, it is important to vaccinate individuals of all ages. Widespread vaccination is the key to being able to go back to pre-pandemic activities, such as in-person classes, after-school activities, social gatherings, and travel.

It is important to remember:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
  • COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. This includes studies for children 12-15 years old.
  • Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine.

Below are answers to commonly asked questions about the vaccine that may help you in making the best decision for your child:

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Why is it important to vaccinate children when most only experience mild symptoms?

  • Children can still become severely ill or die from COVID-19: The vaccine is much safer than the infection, even though many children experience only mild symptoms, some children will become very ill and die from COVID-19.
  • To protect others: Unvaccinated children, even when they have no symptoms, can still infect people around them. Widespread vaccination of children and adolescents is key to the safe reopening of schools and pre-pandemic activities such as sports and other group activities.

For more information, please see “About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for children?

Yes, careful studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children in the approved age groups and have met the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) high scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing. Beyond the careful studies, the vaccines continue to be monitored for safety, more than any vaccine in U.S. history. Tens of millions of individuals of different ethnicities, ages, and health conditions have been safely vaccinated. In fact, over 328 million doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in the United States to people 12 years and older (data from July 2, 2021).  

For more information, here are some resources that might be helpful:

Vaccine Fact Sheets from the Centers for Disease Control in English, Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Karen, Kinyarwanda, Korean, Marshallese, Nepali, Pashto, Russian , Somali, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Swahili (Congolese), Tagalog, Tigrinya, Traditional Chinese, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese

Videos Resources
“How We Know the Vaccine is Safe” from EBARC nonprofit in Polk County, Iowa in Burmese, Falam Chin, French, Hakha Chin, Karen, Karenni, Lingala, Mizo Chin, Spanish, Swahili

Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective in children age 12-15 years?

Yes, the studies show (clinical trial) COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in children. In addition, the studies show that children’s immune systems respond to the vaccine in similar ways to the immune system of older teens and young adults. To get the most protection and effectiveness, your child should receive two shots, three weeks (21 days) apart.

For more information on Pfizer’s clinical trial as well as the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine, please see FDA’s “Coronavirus (COVI-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use in Adolescents in Another Important Action in Fight Against Pandemic.”

My child has already had COVID-19. Do they still need the vaccine?

Even if your child has already had COVID-19, it is recommended that they receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting COVID-19 provides some protection, but people can still get it again.  People who had COVID-19 infection and then get the vaccine have very, very strong protection. 

Does my child need the second vaccine?

Yes.  To get the most protection, it is recommended that your child receive two shots, three weeks (21 days) apart.  This is especially true with the new variants, where one shot is not very protective. If your child has an allergic reaction after the first shot, please speak with your child’s healthcare provider before they receive the second shot.

What are possible side effects after vaccination?

While some children may experience no side effects at all, it is also normal to experience some side effects after vaccination. Side effects show that your child’s body is building protection against the virus. Possible side effects after the COVID-19 vaccination include pain, redness, and swelling of the local area where your child received the shot. In addition, your child may experience tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. Like adults, these side effects typically last 1 to 3 days and are due to your body building an immune response to the virus, NOT from the virus itself.

It is important to note that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccination are much greater than any potential risk of side effects. Contact your child’s healthcare provider for steps you can take at home to comfort your child after the vaccine. Also contact your child’s healthcare provider if the redness or tenderness where your child received the vaccine gets worse after 24 hours or if the side effects are worrying you and/or do not seem to be going away after a few days.

Can my child get a COVID-19 vaccine during the same visit with other vaccines?

Yes, your child can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines during the same visit (please see CDC’s guidance on “Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine”). Talk with your child’s healthcare provider to learn more.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for school? Will my child be able to attend school and after-school activities if they are not fully vaccinated?

Children and teens are at risk for contracting COVID-19 in schools and other social settings including after-school activities, summer camps, parties, and social events. Having your teen or child vaccinated as soon as they are eligible will help prevent infections and spread of COVID-19. Please contact your child’s school to learn about their expectations for student vaccinations.

For more information, please see CDC’s “Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools Through Phased Prevention.”

Will the vaccine affect my child’s future fertility? What about puberty or menstruation?

No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not affect puberty or future fertility. Vaccines can temporarily change someone's menstruation, but this change is temporary and does not affect fertility.

There are a lot of things that can affect menstruation, including stress from school or work, new medications, illness, or a change in your exercise habits or nutrition. The most important thing to remember is that the COVID-19 vaccines do not affect puberty or fertility.

There is a lot of information about the COVID-19 vaccines – some of it factual and some of it not true. Make sure you get your information from reliable resources that rely on objective information and scientific facts. It is also helpful to talk to someone you trust and whom you know has accurate information – like a doctor, nurse, or a community health worker. This will allow you to make the best decision to protect you and your loved ones.

Here are some resources that might be helpful:


Video Resources

Do you have any information on recent reports of heart problems (Myocarditis and Pericarditis) after the vaccine?

In April 2021, the CDC was made aware of increased cases of myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart) in adolescents and young adults after getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. These reports are rare, and most have gone away quickly.  The CDC is investigating and there is close monitoring to identify any new cases.  

The CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for everyone 12 years and up as the risks of COVID-19 are far greater.

For more information, please see CDC’s “Myocarditis and Pericarditis Following mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination.”