Dr. Stacey Cummings; pediatrician

Does YOUR child need a COVID-19 vaccine?

Have questions about getting your kid vaccinated against COVID-19? A pediatrician has the answers.

Thinking about protecting your child against COVID? With Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine now approved for those age 12 and older, and several companies studying vaccine use in younger children, you may be weighing the options — and wondering if it’s safe.

Wonder no longer. “Not only is the vaccine safe for children and teens, but vaccination is the best way to protect ourselves and our families,” says Dr. Stacey Cummings, pediatrician at Geisinger.

Here’s what you need to know about kids and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for kids?

As a parent, you’re right to have concerns about your child’s safety. And that’s exactly why it’s important to vaccinate them. Vaccines protect us against many diseases, and the COVID-19 vaccine is no different.

“This particular vaccine may be new, but the mRNA technology used to develop the COVID vaccine has been studied for decades,” says Dr. Cummings. “In addition, these vaccines have undergone — and will continue to undergo — rigorous testing and monitoring, just as all other vaccines have before becoming available to the public.”

In fact, Pfizer recently released preliminary results from a vaccine study of 2,260 participants age 12 to 15. Among the fully vaccinated children, there were no cases of COVID-19, while there were 18 cases among those who received a placebo.

So far, no serious side effects or other concerns have been reported. “The findings to date give us confidence in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy in those age 12 to 15,” adds Dr. Cummings. “Children will continue to be monitored, and data reviewed, after vaccination to understand side effects and their relationship to the COVID vaccine.”

Which side effects should I look for after my child gets the COVID-19 vaccine?

Your 12- to 15-year-old will receive the same Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and dosage (administered in two doses) as adults do. And it’s likely they’ll have side effects similar to what an adult would.

“Side effects may include pain at the injection site, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose,” explains Dr. Cummings. “Or your child may not experience any side effects at all. But if they do, they should be feeling back to normal within a few days.”

Side effects are normal, and in fact they’re a sign that your child’s body is building protection against COVID. “Contact your child’s pediatrician for advice on easing any discomfort at home,” says Dr. Cummings. “For example, a non-aspirin pain reliever, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, should help relieve any aches and mild fever.”

Why does my child need the COVID-19 vaccine?

Though your child is less likely to be infected with COVID than you are as an adult, it’s still possible for them to get it and spread it to others. And that’s especially concerning if they’re around more vulnerable family and community members.

“Today, children make up 22% of COVID-19 cases in the United States,” says Dr. Cummings. “Getting your child vaccinated not only protects them from COVID-19 and potentially serious complications like multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children [or MIS-C], but it also protects those around them.”

The benefits of having your child vaccinated outweigh any potential risks. “There are possible complications with any vaccine administered to adults and children alike,” says Dr. Cummings. “However, the data shows that these complications are rare — and the risk of being infected with COVID-19 is far more serious.”

Still have questions or concerns about the COVID vaccine? Talk to your pediatrician. “Your child’s pediatrician is a great resource when it comes to your child’s health and well-being,” says Dr. Cummings.

Preparing for your child’s COVID vaccine appointment

Though it’s tempting to give your child a pain reliever before their vaccination appointment to prevent any potential side effects, don’t do it. “It’s best to treat any potential side effects afterward,” says Dr. Cummings.

After your child’s COVID-19 vaccination, they’ll need to stay for an additional 15 to 30 minutes to be observed for any allergic reactions. And before you leave, your child’s second dose will be scheduled. Be sure to keep this appointment and remember: your child isn’t considered fully vaccinated until 2 weeks after their second dose.

It’s normal to have questions about a new vaccine. But you can be confident that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe — and they’re working. “If we continue to work together by getting vaccinated and taking recommended precautionary measures, we can put an end to this pandemic,” says Dr. Cummings. “Returning to regular routines and activities will be good for all of us, and especially our children.”

The information in this article is current as of May 27, 2021. Moderna’s request for its vaccine’s approval for those age 12 to 17 is expected to occur in June 2021.

Visit geisinger.org/COVIDVax for the latest COVID-19 vaccine information.