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COVID-19 Vaccines for Children 12+ Years of Age

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children 12+ Years of Age

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Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, more than four million children in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19. That's over 14% of all cases.

In the United States, individuals have received over 317 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine between December 14, 2020, and June 21, 2021. As a result, many states are now advocating for vaccinations among children 12 years of age and older.

Over 600,000 children aged 12-15 have already received their first shot as of May 2021. "My son was one of them," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 17 million children in the 12-15 age group are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Summer camps and outdoor events are ramping back up, and in a few months, children will be returning to school hoping to participate once again in sports and other school-related activities.

COVID-19 Vaccines are Effective and Safe

The COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in preventing COVID-19, according to a clinical trial with children aged 12-15. Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Virginia, says, "Data from Pfizer-BioNTech shows that the COVID-19 vaccine seems to work really well in this age group."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rigorous clinical trials on tens of thousands of participants have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe as well. All vaccines received Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval after passing scientific criteria for manufacturing, safety, and effectiveness.

Even as the vaccines are being given, states and federal agencies continue to monitor the vaccinations to ensure safety and identify any side effects. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the most exhaustive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Adolescents have also been part of those observations.

Benefits and Risks among Children 12 Years and Older

The CDC recommends that adults and children aged 12 years and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a medical reason not to. Even if your child should come down with COVID-19, the vaccination can reduce the likelihood they'll get seriously ill.

Constant safety monitoring has shown few, but mostly minor, side effects from the shot, such as injection site swelling and soreness, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, or nausea.

Serious side effects from the vaccine resulting in long-term health problems are infrequent. However, the CDC has reported some vaccine-related cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in children and adolescents. Fortunately, most patients who received treatment for these conditions recovered quickly.

Overall, the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the potential risks. To protect your family and others, it's crucial that all adults and children 12 years and older get vaccinated. Dr. Kawsar Talaat, an infectious-disease physician at Johns Hopkins and one of the researchers testing Pfizer–BioNTech in children, cautions, "COVID transmission is now hottest in younger people. The virus will find ways to survive and spread unless we close off the pathways."

Information and Resources for Parents

What to Do Before, During, and After Your Child's Vaccination

Before the Visit

Carefully read any information you've received from your child's doctor, and make a note of questions you have before the visit. You can also access Vaccine Information Statements (VISs), which list the benefits and risks of all vaccines. Your doctor should have VISs available.

If your child is anxious about getting vaccinated, the CDC recommends some strategies to keep them calm. First, explain that some injections sting or pinch a little bit, but the pain is short-lived. Encourage other family members, especially an older brother or sister, to offer support if they're able.

Finally, never use the idea of shots as a threat or say something like, "If you don't start behaving, I'm taking you to the doctor for a shot." Instead, remind your child that vaccinations keep them healthy and free from harmful diseases.

During the Visit

If you have any questions or concerns upon arrival, be sure someone answers them. Again, don't hesitate to request VISs from your doctor.

If your child appears nervous, distract them with stories, jokes, or objects in the room. Also, it's rarely a good idea to tell your child to be "brave." If your child cries, be reassuring and encourage them to take deep breaths.

Make sure your child sits for 15 minutes after the shot. If fainting (syncope) after vaccination occurs, make sure you protect your child from possible injury. Before you leave, see if your provider has any recommendations for care at home, such as using a non-aspirin pain reliever.

After the Visit

Be prepared for possible pain, swelling, or redness at or near the injection site. To ease the pain and swelling, use a cool, damp washcloth. Other mild side effects include:

•Chills

•Fever

•Headache

•Muscle pain

•Nausea

•Tiredness

If your child develops a fever, try a cool sponge bath. Ensure they're getting liquids, especially if they're not eating as much during the following 24 hours. As always, if you notice any side effects that worry you, contact your child's doctor.

Additional Information and Resources

You can find a COVID-19 vaccine for your child by going to your pharmacy's website or calling them to make an appointment. Many sites now accept walk-ins. You can also check with your child's doctor or your local or state health department for vaccination information. To find vaccination sites nearby, you can:

•Go to vaccines.gov

•Text your ZIP code to 438829

•Call 1-800-232-0233

Find out if your doctor uses V-safe, a free smartphone application that allows you to provide periodic check-ins for your child and even report side effects. V-safe also reminds you about getting the second dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Whether you're skeptical of vaccines or just haven't gotten around to it, you can learn more about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. Help your child have a safer and more enjoyable back-to-school experience by getting them vaccinated.

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