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Child with parent and doctor reading heart rate.
Child with parent and doctor reading heart rate.
Child with parent and doctor reading heart rate.

COVID-19 Vaccine: What Parents Need to Know

Featured Experts:

As the first COVID-19 vaccines are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you might be wondering how and when to have your children vaccinated against the coronavirus. At present, it may be late 2021 or 2022 before COVID-19 vaccines are widely available for children under 16 years old.

Pediatricians Anna Sick-Samuels, M.D., M.P.H., of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and Allison Messina, M.D., of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, answer questions for concerned parents and guardians.

Can my child get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Not yet, for children younger than 16 years of age. Testing for the first FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines — one from Pfizer/BioNTech and the other from Moderna — has not yet included participants younger than 16, so there are not enough data to establish efficacy for children and teens in this group.

At present, the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for those 16 years old and up. The Moderna vaccine is authorized for people 18 and older, and the company is recruiting for clinical trials to test its vaccine in children ages 12 through 17. Pfizer is enrolling participants ages 12–15 in their trials as well.

When can my child get a COVID-19 vaccine?

This may take time to happen. First, the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must determine that testing results show the vaccines are safe and effective in children. Some of the vaccine manufacturers have already begun recruiting for clinical trials and testing children 12 and older. Later, the manufacturers will evaluate safety and efficacy in younger age groups, and data from those studies will direct experts’ recommendations on COVID-19 vaccine use in younger children.

Why can’t children under 16 get the coronavirus vaccine now?

A vaccine is not authorized by the federal government or by the state for children under 16 years of age. Studies are ongoing. We can begin vaccinating children when vaccines are authorized for children, we are authorized to administer them and we have an adequate supply for this purpose.

Will a COVID-19 vaccination protect me from infecting my child?

The answer to this question is unknown: Scientists are working hard to determine if getting vaccinated for the coronavirus keeps you from spreading COVID-19 to others, including children. For now, experts recommend you should assume you can spread the coronavirus to other people, even after you have been vaccinated. The CDC recommends that people who get the COVID-19 vaccine continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing when around people from outside their own household until more research is complete.

Can I get COVID-19 from my child?

Yes, it is possible for a child infected with the coronavirus to transmit COVID-19 to another person. Data from some studies suggest that young children may be less likely than older children and adults to spread the coronavirus to others, but it can still happen.

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Does going back to school increase my child’s risk of catching or transmitting the coronavirus?

According to a report published by the CDC, going back to in-person school is not a major COVID-19 risk factor for children if they maintain prevention measures such as wearing masks and physical distancing. Attending parties, playdates and in-person family gatherings such as weddings and funerals is associated with a higher risk of children testing positive for the coronavirus.

Would getting the COVID-19 vaccination protect me if my child gets COVID-19?

There’s a very good chance it will. The COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer each provide about a 95% chance of protecting you from developing symptoms from COVID-19 after completion of the two-dose series. The vaccine appears to be very effective in preventing severe illness from COVID-19. Learn more about the safety and effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines.

Will getting the COVID-19 vaccine help my child go back to school, sports and other activities?

After so many months with children’s education and normal life interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an important question. It will take time to answer, since children are not expected to be given COVID-19 vaccinations for many months.

It is expected that when enough people are protected from the coronavirus, the risk of infection for your child — and the population in general — will begin to decline, even before vaccines are available for children. Vaccines, along with mask-wearing, physical distancing and other precautions will help ensure your child’s gradual return to school, sports and other group activities in the future.

syringe close up - covid19 coronavirus vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine

Get information and updates from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Published January, 28 2021