Preparing Your Children for a COVID-19 Vaccination

Mar 24, 2022 | COVID-19, GTM Blog, Parenting


With the news that Moderna wants the FDA to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of six, here’s what you need to know to prepare yourself and your kids for their vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone ages five years and older get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, just 27 percent of children aged five to 11 years old are fully vaccinated. Nearly six in 10 kids aged 12-17 are also fully vaccinated. Now Moderna wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize its vaccine for kids under six, there could be added demand for vaccinations for children.

Should you vaccinate your child?

Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to best protect everyone from COVID-19 and its related complications.

For kids, the experience of getting a COVID-19 vaccine will be very similar to the experience of getting routine vaccines. Here’s what you need to know.

Find a COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 years and older

The federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status. Check with your child’s healthcare provider about whether they offer COVID-19 vaccination. Your local pharmacy may also offer vaccination walk-ins or appointments for children.

Contact your state, territorial, local, or tribal health department for more information.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Search
  • Text your ZIP code to 438829
  • Call (800) 232-0233 to find locations near you.

Why children and teens should get vaccinated for COVID-19

There are approximately 28 million children between the ages of five and 11 years old in the United States, and there have been nearly two million cases of COVID-19 within this age group during the pandemic. COVID-19 can make children very sick and cause children to be hospitalized.

Children are as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as adults and can:

  • Get very sick from COVID-19
  • Have both short and long-term health complications from COVID-19
  • Spread COVID-19 to others, including at home and school

Children with underlying medical conditions are more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with children without underlying medical conditions.

FAQs about COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

Protection your child, your family, and others

Getting a vaccine can help protect children ages five years and older from getting COVID-19.

  • Vaccinating children can help protect family members, including siblings who are not eligible for vaccination and family members who may be at increased risk of getting very sick if they are infected.
  • Vaccination can also help keep children from getting seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19.
  • Vaccinating children ages five years and older can help keep them in school and help them safely participate in sports, playdates, and other group activities.

Unvaccinated children ages two years and older should wear a mask in public spaces and around people they don’t live with.

COVID-19 Vaccines are safe for children and teens

Before recommending COVID-19 vaccination for children, scientists conducted clinical trials with thousands of children and no serious safety concerns were identified. The FDA gave the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine emergency authorization to use in children ages five-15 years old and full approval to use in people ages 16 years and older.

The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks. The CDC monitors the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines after the vaccines are authorized or approved for use, including the risk of myocarditis in children ages five through 11 years.

Your child may get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including the flu vaccine, at the same time. Serious health events after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any vaccine, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems.

How mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines were Developed

COVID-19 vaccine dosage and administration for children and teens

Unlike many medications, the COVID-19 vaccine dosage does not vary by patient weight but by age on the day of vaccination. Adolescents ages 12 years and older receive the same dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as adults. Children ages five through 11 years receive an age-appropriate dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five through 11 years has the same active ingredients as the vaccine given to adults and adolescents. However, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for adults and adolescents cannot be used for children ages 5 through 11 years.

Your child will need a second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine three weeks after their first shot. If a child turns from 11 to 12 years of age in between their first and second dose, the second dose should be the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 12 years and older. However, if the child receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five through 11 for their second dose, they do not need to repeat the dose.

For information on an additional primary dose for children ages five and older who are immunocompromised visit COVID-19 Vaccines for Moderately or Severely Immunocompromised People.

COVID-19 and Kids: How mRNA Vaccines Work

Preparing children and teens for vaccination

The experience of getting a COVID-19 vaccine will be very similar to the experience of getting routine vaccines. Here are some tips to support your child before, during, and after routine vaccinations when they get a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Talk to your child before vaccination about what to expect.
  • It is not recommended you give pain relievers before vaccination to try to prevent side effects.
  • Tell the doctor or nurse about any allergies your child may have.
  • To prevent fainting and injuries related to fainting, your child should be seated or lying down during vaccination and for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given.

After your child’s COVID-19 vaccination, you will be asked to stay for 15 – 30 minutes so your child can be observed in case they have a severe allergic reaction and need immediate treatment. You should receive a paper or electronic version of a fact sheet that tells you more about the specific COVID-19 vaccine you or your child received. Each approved and authorized COVID-19 vaccine has its own fact sheet that contains information to help you understand the risks and benefits of receiving that specific vaccine.

What to Expect at Your COVID-19 Vaccination Appointment

After your child’s COVID-19 vaccination

Your child may have some side effects, which are normal signs that their body is building protection.

On the arm where your child got the shot, your child may experience pain, redness, and/or swelling. Throughout the rest of their body, they may feel tiredness, headaches, muscle pains, chills, fever, and/or nausea.

These side effects may affect your child’s ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Some people have no side effects and severe allergic reactions are rare. If your child experiences a severe allergic reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine providers can rapidly provide care and call for emergency medical services, if needed.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider for advice on using a non-aspirin pain reliever and other steps you can take at home after your child gets vaccinated. In general, aspirin is not recommended for use in children and adolescents less than 18 years of age. Placing a cool, damp cloth on the injection site can help with discomfort.

Teens ages 12 and older can get a booster shot

Teens ages 12 and older should get a booster shot at least five months after completing their Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 primary series. So far, reactions reported after getting a booster shot were similar to those after the two-dose primary series. Fever, headache, fatigue, and pain at the injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and overall, most side effects were mild to moderate.

Currently, a booster shot is not recommended for children younger than 12 years old.

It is not recommended you give pain relievers before vaccination to try to prevent side effects.

Your child’s CDC COVID-19 vaccination card

At the first vaccination appointment, you will get a CDC COVID-19 vaccination card that tells you which COVID-19 vaccine your child received, the date your child received it, and where your child received it. Keep this CDC COVID-19 vaccination card for future use. Consider taking a picture of the card after your child’s vaccination appointment as a backup copy.

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