COVID-19 Vaccines for Children: What Parents Need to Know


What Parents Need to Know

Why should I get my child vaccinated for COVID-19?

Getting yourself and your child vaccinated for COVID-19 are important steps to protect ourselves and those around us against serious infection. Having your child vaccinated can help:

  • Protect your child from severe COVID-19, potential hospitalization or long-term COVID symptoms.
  • Protect family members and friends by stopping the spread of the virus.
  • Keep them in school and other activities such as sports and extracurricular activities.
  • Eliminate mask-wearing requirements. (Never mask a child under two years old.)
  • Help to reduce the spread of the virus within the community.

Why do younger children need this vaccine?

While many children have mild symptoms when they have COVID-19, a small percentage of children do require more serious medical care. This can include being admitted to the hospital or an intensive care unit. While no vaccine is 100% effective, the benefits of the vaccine for children significantly outweigh any potential risks. The COVID-19 vaccine produces a strong immune response in children 6 months and older. It reduces the risk of the harmful effects of COVID-19. 

Can children get severely ill with COVID-19? 

Although children are at lower risk of becoming really ill with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with COVID-19 and can get very sick. One serious effect (complication) is multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). MIS-C can occur in children who were already infected with COVID-19. It causes different body parts to become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain. Another serious effect can be long-term COVID symptoms.

What vaccines are approved for children?

Two COVID-19 vaccines have been approved under the emergency use authorization. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both available for children 6 months and up.

What is the difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

The differences between the two include:

  1. Dose amounts vary by age group. Your vaccination site will ensure your child receives the correct dose for their age. 
    • Moderna gives two doses four weeks apart. This is for children ages 6 months and older. 
    • Pfizer gives three doses for children ages 6 months to 4 years. There are three weeks between the first and second dose. The third dose is given eight weeks after the second dose. The entire schedule takes 11 weeks. Children 5 years and older receive only two doses separated by three weeks.
  2. Booster dose eligibility for children ages 5 to 17 years:
    • Children who receive primary vaccination with Moderna are not eligible for a booster dose at this time.
    • Children 5 years of age and older who receive primary vaccination with Pfizer should receive a booster dose (see below).

Will my child need a booster shot?

Booster shots are not yet recommended for children who are under age 5. 

  • First (initial) boosters for immunocompromised people are recommended:
    • At least three months after completion of the third dose for qualifying immunocompromised people age 5+ (Pfizer recipients) or ages 18+ (Moderna)
  • First (initial) boosters for people who are not immunocompromised are recommended for people ages 5 years and older:
    • Recipients of the Pfizer (ages 5+) or Moderna (ages 18+) five months after their second dose
    • Recipients age 18+ may receive the same or different vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) than their primary series for their booster based on availability and preference
  • Second boosters are recommended for these age groups at least four months after their first booster:
    • People age 50+ (Pfizer or Moderna recipients)
    • Recipients of the Pfizer primary series, age 12+ and immunocompromised
    • Recipients of the Moderna primary series, age 18+ and immunocompromised

Will my young child get their shot in the arm or leg?

Older children and adults usually receive vaccines in their upper arm. Younger children receive many vaccines in their thigh because it is a bigger muscle to receive the shot (injection). Many children under age 5 will receive the COVID-19 vaccine in their thigh.

How do we know the COVID-19 vaccine is safe? What are the side effects for children?

Vaccines have been studied in every age group to make sure they are safe and effective. Common side effects include pain and tenderness at the injection site, irritability and fever. These effects are due to the body’s immune system building immunity to COVID-19. These symptoms usually are better within 24 to 48 hours. Some people don’t have any side effects.

My child had COVID-19. Do they still need to be vaccinated?

It is possible to get COVID-19 again, so it’s important for your child to be vaccinated even if they had COVID-19. It’s not clear how long COVID-19 antibodies stay in the body and protect us from the virus. 

How soon after the vaccine will my child build immunity? 

Your child will be considered fully vaccinated approximately two weeks after their final dose.

What are the potential long-term side effects from the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine is very safe. More than 500 million doses have been given in the United States to-date. Common side effects of the vaccine are due to the body’s immune response to vaccination. These include pain at the injection site and fever, which generally occur within 48 hours of receiving the vaccine and can last several days. More serious side effects, such as myocarditis, are extremely rare and can occur up to six weeks after vaccination. Most cases of vaccine-associated myocarditis have had a mild-to-moderate course, with excellent short-term outcomes in nearly all. Compared with vaccinations, however, there is substantial and growing evidence on the long-term impact of COVID-19 infection including chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and breathing problems.

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What should I do if I still have questions about my child getting the vaccine?

Your child’s doctor can help you make the right decision for your child. You can also click here for more information.

Where can I get the vaccine?

There are multiple places for kids to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Appointments can be made at Nationwide Children’s school-based clinic locations, or you can find locations through the Ohio Department of Health.  

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