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:

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 parents and guardians.

Can my child get a COVID-19 vaccine?

If he or she is age 12 or older, yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for several COVID-19 vaccines The EUA means that these organizations have reviewed clinical trials data and determined that the vaccine is safe and effective. Currently, the Pfizer COVID-19 is authorized for use in kids ages 12 to 15.

Current safety and efficacy testing of the vaccines for children ages 2 and up may lead to authorization of one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines for younger kids in the months ahead.

Myocarditis in teens: Does the COVID vaccine cause heart problems?

Since April 2021, there have been more than a thousand reports of cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) happening after some COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Considering the hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been administered, these reports are very rare. The problem occurs more often in adolescents (teens) and young adults, and in males. The myocarditis or pericarditis in most cases is mild and resolves quickly.

Seek medical attention right away if, within a few days of receiving the second injection of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna), you or your child experiences chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heartbeat.

Should I consider getting my child vaccinated for COVID-19?

Yes. Experts, including those at Johns Hopkins, believe that the benefits of being vaccinated for COVID-19 outweigh the risks. Although COVID-19 in children is usually milder than in adults, some kids can get very sick and have complications or long-lasting symptoms that affect their health and well-being. The virus can cause death in children although this is rarer than for adults.

Like adults, children also can transmit the coronavirus to others if they’re infected, even when no symptoms are present. The COVID-19 vaccine protects against this potential harm to the child and others, including family members and friends who may be susceptible.

Another reason to consider a COVID-19 vaccine for your child is to protect the health of the broader community. Each child or adult infected with the coronavirus provides a chance for the virus to mutate and create a variant that might prove more dangerous or resistant to the available vaccines and therapies. Fewer overall infections among the population means less chance of dangerous coronavirus variants.

Finally, schools sometimes require vaccinations (such as those for diphtheria or whooping cough), and your child’s school might require COVID-19 vaccination for students returning to in-person learning.

Are there specific concerns for kids getting COVID vaccines?

The FDA and the CDC take vaccine safety precautions very seriously. They will examine the available clinical trial data before deciding whether to authorize vaccination among different age groups, and they will work with vaccine manufacturers to continue to watch for any signs of safety issues as vaccination programs continue among the public.

Would side effects be the same in children getting coronavirus shots?

Generally, yes. Pfizer has reported that side effects of the shots appear to be similar in children and adults. Your child might notice pain at the injection site (upper arm), and could feel more tired than usual. Headache, achy muscles or joints, and even fever and chills are also possible. These side effects are usually temporary and generally clear up within 48 hours.

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When can my child get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The FDA and CDC have expanded use of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 and up. Please check for updates in your area on how to schedule an appointment. Johns Hopkins Medicine is starting to offer the vaccine to this expanded age group in Maryland.

Once thorough testing has demonstrated that the vaccines are safe and effective for kids under 12, COVID-19 vaccines may also be authorized by the FDA for administration to younger children. This may take time to happen. First, the FDA and the CDC must determine that testing results show the vaccines are safe and effective in younger children. Some of the vaccine manufacturers have already begun recruiting for clinical trials and testing children under 12. 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.

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.

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. Having your teen or child vaccinated as soon as he or she is eligible will help prevent infections and spread of COVID-19.

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

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 all 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.

Vaccinations for Parents and Guardians

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.

syringe close up - covid19 coronavirus vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine

Get information and updates from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Updated July 16, 2021