Protecting Your Child Against COVID-19

What you need to know about kids and COVID-19 vaccines.

Children Are Susceptible to COVID-19 Too

It is important to remember that anyone, at any age, can get severely ill from COVID-19. In general, children have been less affected by severe COVID-19 disease compared with adults. However, children with health conditions such as asthma or chronic lung disease, congenital heart disease, diabetes and obesity can be at higher risk for severe illness when compared with children who do not have health conditions. Children who have not been vaccinated are at increased risk for developing one rare but potentially serious condition associated with COVID-19 is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).

Vaccination Is the Best Protection Against COVID-19 Illness

There are ways to prevent COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccinations are safe and effective and are the best way to protect your child. Vaccines not only provide protection against COVID-19, but can also help prevent serious illness and hospitalization if your child becomes sick.

Vaccine Availability for Children

COVID-19 vaccines are available for ages 5 and older and clinical trials are ongoing for children 6 months and older. Pfizer-BioNTech recently asked FDA to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. Learn more about the process for emergency use authorization.

There is currently no COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months through 4 years of age. 

Ongoing clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines in children are available. Clinical trials determine whether a new treatment or, in this case, vaccine works and is safe for people to use.

It is flu season, and your child can get their flu shot and other recommended routine vaccinations at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions about Kids and COVID-19 Vaccination

Potential COVID-19 vaccine side effects in children include: pain, swelling and redness in the arm where the shot was given. Other side effects may include:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

Side effects mean the body is building immunity against COVID-19 disease and these effects should go away in a few days. Like with other vaccines your child receives, not everyone will have side effects. Your child’s healthcare provider should be able to offer steps at home to comfort your child if they experience side effects. Not all children will experience side effects. For those who do, we recommend rest, a hot compress on the injection site, lots of fluids and speaking with your child's healthcare provider about a pain medication if needed.

The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the risks, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis. The cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in adolescents are rare and have been reported more after getting the second dose than after the first dose of an mRNA vaccine. This is being closely monitored by the CDC. 

It is important to be aware of safety and side effect issues around the vaccine, each person should weigh these usually mild side effects against the great benefit of protecting against moderate to severe illness which can occur at any age and in people without any underlying conditions. Long-term effects after COVID-19 infection do occur in children and teens and can happen after mild or severe COVID-19.

Talk to your child’s healthcare provider to help you weigh the benefits versus risks.

There are ways to report side effects and it is being monitored, learn more about post-approval surveillance and vaccine safety.

COVID-19 vaccines are widely available. Check your child’s healthcare provider, local health departments and local pharmacy to see if COVID-19 vaccination appointments are available for your child’s age. You can also search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you. 

Children who are fully vaccinated (14 days after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine) can return to some of the activities they loved participating in prior to the pandemic. This may include spending time with vaccinated friends and enjoying extracurricular activities.

For children 5 years and older, two doses, 21 days apart of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Make sure all members of the household that are age 5 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Visitors at your home should also be vaccinated. Continue taking steps to prevent getting sick.

There is no exact date. The reason COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective is because there is a rigorous process all vaccines go through before they become widely available. Pfizer and BioNTech recently announced their lower-dose COVID-19 vaccine to be safe and effective in 5- to 11-year-old children. The FDA reviewed the data and amended the emergency use authorization (EUA) to include this age range. Then, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) reviewed the data and gave a recommendation to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who made a final determination to make the COVID-19 vaccination an available option for 5- to 11-year-old youth. This same process will be repeated for children younger than 5 when clinical trials are available for review.  You can learn more about how vaccines are approved at Lung.org/vaccines.

There is a difference between the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the one for 5–11-year-olds. Dosing is based on the age of the immune system, not the weight of the child, and we know that children are not small adults. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is one third of the adult dose, a 10 microgram dose instead of the 30 microgram dose for individuals over 12. Clinical trial results showed the same immune response with the lower dose and children experienced fewer mild side effects.

It is not uncommon for children to fear needles and getting painful shots. These tips can help make this potentially stressful event less worrisome. First, speak with your child about all the steps that will occur so they are prepared. Second, give them control over choices can own. Do they want to bring a favorite stuffed animal along to squeeze or hold your hand? Bring a band aid from home or use one at the clinic? Shut their eyes tight or look at you? Third, practice deep breathing and positive affirmations like, “I’ve got this.” Finally, be honest with your child about where you are going and what the side effects might be from the vaccination.

Additional benefits to COVID-19 Vaccination:

  • Keeps your kids in school
  • Allows children to fully participant in extracurricular activities
  • Less missed workdays due to COVID-19 exposure or infection in your children
  • Helps contribute to the decline of COVID-19 cases
  • Helps decrease the likelihood for additional variants

More on Our Blog

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Back to School: Asthma During COVID-19

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Call the Lung HelpLine

Our Lung HelpLine is answering questions about COVID-19. Contact our Lung HelpLine by calling 1-800-LUNGUSA or submitting a question online.

Page last updated: November 9, 2021

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