Dr. Ben Flannery answers questions on COVID vaccination for youth

May 24, 2021

MAY 24, 2021 -- Now that youth ages 12 and older are being vaccinated against COVID, parents have new questions. Pediatrician Ben Flannery, MD answers common questions about COVID vaccination for youth. 

The FDA approved Pfizer vaccine for youth 12-15 on May 10. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vaccination for this age group.

Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic. Getting your child vaccinated can bring you one step closer to enjoying activities you miss.


Why should my child be vaccinated?

Children can get sick from COVID, some with long-lasting health problems. Children can spread COVID to others, even if they don’t have any symptoms. Vaccinating children helps break the path of virus to other family members and friends.

Having all members of your household vaccinated is the best protection for your whole family.

Having everyone vaccinated is what helps us return to what life was like before the pandemic.


How do we know it’s safe for children?

COVID vaccines have had the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, including studies in adolescents. (Source: CDC)

Pfizer tested its vaccine with 2,400 youth ages 12-15 (in addition to 40,000 people 16 and older) and found it has the same effectiveness and safety for youth as it does for adults: It is 95% effective in preventing COVID, and 100% effective in preventing serious illness and death.

V-Safe, a voluntary program, monitors millions of vaccinated people who joined the program for side effects and illness after being vaccinated. V-Safe shows that the vaccines have been consistently safe across many millions of doses.


When should my child be vaccinated?

As soon as you can arrange it. COVID vaccine can be given at the same time as other immunizations for youth who are due (or behind schedule) on routine vaccinations including Tdap, HPV and Meningococcal vaccines. (Source: AAP)

If your child gets their 7th grade required immunizations this summer and are offered a COVID vaccine that day or week, it is safe to get it. You do not need to wait two weeks after other immunizations.


What are the side effects?

Most people experience mild (or no) side effects. Side effects are normal signs that the body is building protection.

During testing, youth ages 12-15 had the same side effects as older teens and adults – at the same frequency and severity.

Your child may have pain at the injection site, some redness and swelling. Your child also may have fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever or nausea. Side effects may appear a few hours after injection and may last a few days.

You can give your child non-aspirin pain reliever (ibuprofen, Tylenol, acetaminophen) for any of these common side effects. (There’s no need to give pain relievers before your child’s injection; that medication is likely to wear off before side effects appear.)

 Before the appointment, we recommend having something to eat. It will keep your child’s blood sugar steady and help keep them calm (especially if they're nervous or excited).