COVID-19 Vaccination & Children
Questions and Answers for Parents
COVID-19 vaccination is now available for children ages 12 and up. So that our children, teens, and families can return to the activities and social interactions they both enjoy and need, it’s key that everyone who is eligible gets the vaccine. In addition, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cases are on the rise among children and teens—nearly a quarter of new cases are in this age group. COVID-19 vaccination will protect your child, your family, and your community, and help end the pandemic. Below are answers to some questions you may have about COVID-19 vaccination and your family.
Why should my child get vaccinated?
- Children overall have been less likely than adults to develop severe illness from COVID-19, but a small number of children have developed serious complications from the virus including a condition called multi-inflammatory syndrome in children or MIS-C, in which the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs can become inflamed. In addition, over 300 children have died from COVID-19.
- Because children who have COVID-19 may not have symptoms or even know they are carrying the virus they can pose a risk to vulnerable people around them, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. To prevent other people in your family and community from getting COVID-19 it's important that everyone—parents, grandparents, babysitters, siblings—are also vaccinated.
- In rare cases children can develop longer lasting symptoms or complications from COVID-19 that can affect the heart, lungs, nervous system, and kidneys. Doctors don’t fully understand how COVID-19 causes these long-term problems or how to treat them.
Is my child eligible for vaccination?
- The Pfizer vaccine is currently authorized for people ages 12 and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people over age 18.
- The COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to everyone—you and your child do not need insurance, immigration papers, social security numbers, or identification to receive the vaccine.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective?
- Yes! All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the US have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19. The currently authorized vaccines are between 70 to 95 percent effective at preventing symptoms (especially severe symptoms). Even if your child becomes infected after vaccination his or her symptoms will likely be milder or he/she won’t have any symptoms at all.
- All of the vaccines are extremely effective in preventing COVID-related hospitalization and death.
- The vaccines have been studied in tens of thousands of people. More than 124 million Americans have received a vaccine, and almost all doctors—an estimated 95 percent—have also received the vaccine.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
- The most common side effect of vaccination is a sore arm. Some people may also have redness or rash or swelling, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, or nausea, all of which usually only last only a day or two. These symptoms are more common after the second dose.
- A very rare form of blood clot has occurred in a few people who received the J&J vaccine. These are blood clots in the brain, called cerebral vein or cerebral sinus vein thrombosis. More than 7 million J&J vaccines have been administered, and this clotting problem is extremely rare. The CDC paused the J&J vaccine to investigate and found that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of not getting it. Parents can choose which vaccine their child gets, and for some families the J&J vaccine may not be the right choice.
How do the vaccines work?
- The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made from messenger RNA (mRNA). This messenger RNA is like an instruction manual on how to make the spike protein on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Our cells make copies of that protein and teach our immune system to make antibodies and immune cells against the virus. These will protect your child when he or she is exposed to the virus in the future. The mRNA is made out the molecules (nucleic acids) that are already in all our cells; after vaccination the mRNA falls apart and is eliminated from the body quickly. Neither the mRNA nor the spike protein can make a patient sick with COVID-19.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses DNA instead of messenger RNA to tell your cells how to make copies of the spike protein. The DNA is inside an another virus (called adenovirus) that normally causes the common cold, but that has been inactivated (crippled) so it does not cause the cold. Instead it delivers information that gets the attention of the immune system, and teaches it to make antibodies and immune cells against the virus. Neither the adenovirus nor the spike protein can make you sick.
How were the vaccines made so quickly?
- The COVID-19 vaccines are based on research done over the past decades on similar vaccines. While the timelines for production were overlapped to speed up the process of creating the vaccines, they were held to the same safety standards and expert review as all vaccines approved for use in the US.
- All three vaccines were tested in tens of thousands of people from diverse backgrounds, including older adults and communities of color (who made up 30 percent of US participants in these studies). All three vaccine studies also enrolled patients who had conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and pulmonary disease, who are at increased risk of severe disease.
- At least eight weeks of safety data were gathered in the clinical trials, and no significant safety concerns were identified. (It is unusual for side effects to appear more than eight weeks after vaccination.)
What about the new variants?
- As viruses spread, they may change, forming new variants. Studies show that currently authorized vaccines are still great at preventing severe disease and hospitalization from these new strains. And of course, vaccines work against the most common types of COVID-19.
- Vaccination is our best tool to stop new variants: viruses cannot mutate if they can’t replicate. By vaccinating widely we protecting individuals from getting disease and preventing the emergence of new strains.
Where can my child get the vaccine?
- Many pharmacies are offering walk-in visits.
- Many large vaccination centers (for example Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in NYC), hospitals, churches, community centers, etc. are also offering walk in visits.
- To find a vaccination site near your home, or to schedule a vaccine appointment for an eligible child or teen at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, visit https://vaccinefinder.nyc.gov/. You can also find a vaccination location through the Centers for Disease Control at https://guest.vams.cdc.gov/.