Conversation Guide: Pediatric Vaccinations

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the COVID-19 vaccination for everyone age 5 years old and older. The Pfizer vaccine is available for people ages 5 years old and older while the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are available for people ages 18 years old and older. 

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.
  • 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?

  • To protect children: even though many children experience only mild symptoms, some children will become very ill and die from COVID-19. As of Dec. 1, almost 1000 children have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. The vaccine is safe and will protect children from severe illness and death.
  • To protect others: unvaccinated children, even when they have no symptoms, can still infect people around them. This can be especially dangerous if they are in contact with elderly people, like grandparents, or with people who may have other, serious medical conditions that make them more likely to be seriously ill or die from COVID-19. Widespread vaccination of children and adolescents is key to ensuring schools and businesses stay open. 

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 people of different ethnicities, ages, and health conditions have been safely vaccinated. In fact, more than 400 million doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in the United States (data from Dec. 2, 2021).  

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

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?

Yes, the studies show 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 needs 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?

Yes. Even if your child has already had COVID-19, it is recommended that they receive the COVID-19 vaccine. People who had COVID-19 infection and then get the vaccine have very, very strong protection. 

It is possible to get infected with COVID-19 more than once. This is especially true with some variants. This makes COVID-19 vaccination even more important for people who have previously been infected. 

Does my child need the second vaccine?

Yes. To get the most protection, your child needs 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 tenderness, redness, and swelling of the 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 or 2 days and are due to your child's 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. In rare cases vaccines can 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:

Websites

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 these are usually mild and go away quickly. The CDC is investigating and there is close monitoring to identify any new cases. COVID-19 also causes heart problems and is much, much more likely to cause heart problems than the vaccine.

The CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for everyone 5 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.”

Do children receive the same dose as adults? How do I know this has been designed to have my child's age and physical appearance in mind?

Children age 12 and older receive the same dose as adults. 

The COVID-19 vaccines for younger children have been designed and formulated especially for those ages 5-11. Children age 5-11 receive a smaller dose. The appropriate dosage is best determined by a child’s age, not his or her size. Smaller needles, designed specifically for children, are used for children under 12.

COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. 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. 

How is the COVID-19 vaccine experience similar to other vaccination experiences a child may have?

The COVID-19 vaccine experience is very similar to other vaccination experiences. Your child can get their COVID-19 vaccine in a doctor’s office just like they would any other vaccination. 

Before the nurse or doctor gives your child the vaccine, they will tell you about it, review your child’s medical history and ask you if you have any questions. 

The shot happens very quickly and should be no more or less painful than other vaccines your child has received. Your child will need to stay for 15–30 minutes to make sure they do not have an immediate allergic reaction.

For a day or two after they receive the vaccine, children might experience mild side effects, which is completely normal. Side effects mean the vaccine is teaching your child’s body how to fight COVID-19. Possible side effects include tenderness, redness, and swelling of the area where your child received the shot. In addition, your child may experience tiredness, irritability, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. Contact your child’s healthcare provider for steps you can take at home to comfort your child after the vaccine.

It is important to note that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccination are much greater than any potential risk of side effects. Serious side effects are very rare. It is much more likely that your child will have serious complications from a COVID-19 infection than from a vaccine.

Once your child is vaccinated against COVID-19, they can safely return to normal activities like attending school, playing sports, and visiting friends and family. As more children and adults get vaccinated, it will also be easier to keep schools and businesses open.

How else can I keep my child safe from COVID-19?

Children and youth will be safest when they are vaccinated. Other ways to keep children safe include:

  • Teach your child to wear a mask properly. While getting vaccinated is the most important step to protect your child and your community, wearing a mask provides even more protection. 
  • Get the flu vaccine for yourself and your child. It is safe and effective to get both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time, and children who are not yet old enough for the COVID-19 vaccine can receive a flu shot.
  • Your child should stay home from school or social events anytime they feel sick.
  • Teach your child to practice social distancing, and wash their hands frequently. 
  • Encourage people who spend time around your child to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

Should my family also prioritize getting the flu shot for my child?

Yes. Influenza can be a serious infection anytime and kills a couple hundred children a year. However, this year a flu vaccine is especially important because:  

  • Signs and symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 can be identical and it can be difficult to figure out which infection your child might have.
  • People who get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time may be at even higher risk for severe complications and death.
  • If you get very sick with the flu it can be difficult to get medical help. Doctors, clinics and hospitals may not be able to take care of as many patients with severe influenza, or not be able to care as well for people with influenza, because there are so many people sick with COVID-19 filling up emergency rooms, hospitals and intensive care units. 

Get the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine for the most protection.

  • Both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine protect you, your family, and your community.
  • Both vaccines make it less likely for you to get sick and spread illness to others. They also prevent you from getting dangerously ill if you do get sick.

Flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

  • It is safe and effective to get both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time. 
  • Children who are not yet old enough for the COVID-19 vaccine can receive a flu shot.

My child turned from 11 to 12 years old in between the first and second COVID-19 vaccine dose. What dose should they get now that they are 12?

The COVID-19 vaccines have been designed and formulated for children, with the right dosage best determined by a person’s age – not their size. Therefore, scientists and healthcare providers say that if a child turns from 11 to 12 years old in between their first and second dose, the second dose should be the vaccine for people ages 12 years and older.