Should You Vaccinate Your Child for COVID-19?

Nov 12, 2021 | COVID-19, GTM Blog, Parenting


Vaccinating your children for COVID-19 protects other family members, helps them avoid serious illness even if they do get COVID-19, and keeps them in school and participating in their activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone ages five and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against COVID-19.

Widespread vaccination for COVID-19 is a critical tool to best protect everyone, especially those at the highest risk, from severe illness and death. People who are fully vaccinated can safely resume many activities that they did prior to the pandemic.

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.

Children ages five years and older are able to get an age-appropriate dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Authorized for Pfizer-BioNTech Moderna Johnson & Johnson
4 years and under No No No
5-11 years old Yes No No
12-17 years old Yes No No
18 years and older Yes Yes Yes


Why children and teens should get vaccinated for COVID-19

While COVID-19 tends to be milder in children compared with adults, it can make children very sick and cause them to be hospitalized. In some situations, complications from infection can lead to death.

Although children are at a lower risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 compared with adults, children can:

  • Be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Get very sick from COVID-19.
  • Have both short and long-term health complications from COVID-19.
  • Spread COVID-19 to others.

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

Children who become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can also develop serious complications like multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) – a condition where different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.

Vaccinating your 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. Vaccinations will also help keep them from getting seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19, keep them in school and safely participate in sports, playdates, and other group activities.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children and teens

COVID-19 vaccines are being monitored for safety with the most comprehensive and intense safety monitoring program in U.S. history. The CDC monitors the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines after the vaccines are authorized or approved for use; this includes tracking 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. Cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) have been reported after the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination of children ages 12-17 years. These reactions are rare; in one study, the risk of myocarditis after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech in the week following vaccination was around 54 cases per million doses administered to males aged 12-17 years.

A severe allergic reaction, like anaphylaxis, may happen after any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, but this is rare.

Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine, including the PfizerBioNTech vaccine.

Learn more about how messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, work.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems.

COVID-19 vaccine dosage and administration

Adolescents ages 12 years and older receive the same dosage of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as adults.

Children ages five through 11 years receive one-third of the adult dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Smaller needles, designed specifically for children, are used for children ages five through11 years.

COVID-19 vaccine dosage does not vary by patient weight but by age on the day of vaccination.

Your child will need a second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine three weeks after their first shot.

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. Use the CDC’s 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.
  • Avoid giving pain relievers before vaccination to try to prevent side effects.
  • Tell the doctor or nurse about any allergies your child may have.
  • Keep your child seated or lying down during vaccination, and for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given, to prevent fainting.
  • Remain at the vaccine site for 15-30 minutes after the COVID-19 shot so your child can be observed in case they have a severe allergic reaction and need immediate treatment.

Getting children vaccinated

Parents are urged to speak with their children’s pediatricians about vaccinations right away.

Here are methods for locating vaccination sites near you:

  • Search
  • Text your ZIP code to 438829.
  • Call (800)232-0233.
  • Check with your child’s health care provider about whether they offer COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Check your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination walk-ins or appointments are available for children.
  • Contact your state, territorial, local, or tribal health department for more information.

After your child’s COVID-19 vaccination

Possible side effects on the arm where your child got the shot:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Possible side effects on the rest of their body:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • 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. Ask your child’s health care provider for advice on using a nonaspirin 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.

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