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What to expect with your child's COVID-19 vaccine

Parents’ questions, answered

By now, you probably know that COVID-19 vaccines are available to kids and teens 12.

For many of us, the choice to get vaccinated was fairly straightforward. Making that choice for our kids, however, may feel more complicated.

We want to help you find the information you need to make that decision. As always, we recommend talking to your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for kids and teens?

Yes. The CDC and the FDA have determined that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for this age group. Scientists are continuing to monitor safety in adolescents.

In studies, the Pfizer vaccine was found to be 100% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 in kids 12 to 15.

What side effects could my child have?

As with any vaccine or medication, COVID-19 vaccines may come with a few side effects. This is true for both kids and adults. For the most part, kids are experiencing similar side effects as adults. This may include:

  • Pain, redness, and swelling on the arm where they got the shot
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain or aches
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

While many who receive the vaccine don’t experience side effects at all, some report feeling generally “flu-ish” after their first or second dose of the vaccine. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.

To combat flu-ish symptoms, the CDC recommends staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and dressing lightly. While these side effects will go away on their own within a few hours or days, be sure your child gets lots of rest to help the healing process. This might be a good time for them to finish up that season of TV they’ve been binging on Netflix or finally pick up that book they’ve been meaning to read.

Remember, these side effects are just signals that your child’s body is doing its job by building up a defense against COVID-19.

You may have heard on the news that some kids have developed myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, after vaccination. Though the risk is quite low, this is an understandable worry for parents. For more information on that, visit Harvard Health.

If your child has a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines, or if you have any other safety concerns, talk to your child’s doctor. Also important to note, adolescents are more likely to faint after many vaccines - likely because of fear or pain.

As for long-term side effects, the CDC says this is extremely unlikely. In the millions of people vaccinated, no long-term side effects have been detected.

I thought kids couldn’t get severe illness. Why should I think about vaccinating them?

Whether you vaccinate your kids is a personal choice. It’s true that kids often have milder COVID-19 symptoms than adults. But it’s important to know that some kids can get very sick from COVID-19. Children have died from the virus.

In 2021, we saw a significant increase in the percentage of kids diagnosed with the virus. This matters for a few reasons.

For one, the more children get infected, the more we will see serious complications that can be dangerous for kids. And for another, kids are kids are highly likely to transmit COVID-19 to others. The more we allow the virus to spread, the more likely we are to see even more dangerous variants emerge.

Plus, getting a COVID-19 vaccine can give both kids and parents the peace of mind to know they are protected from the virus as they return to all the activities they enjoy. The vaccine opens up safe opportunities to get back to camps, sports, school and other gatherings.

Getting vaccinated is an important step in stopping the pandemic for both kids and adults.

Kristi Edwards, MD

Kristi Edwards, MD

Pediatrician and Medical Director

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