As we’ve seen over the last six months, COVID-19 vaccines have been very effective for protecting vaccinated people from becoming extremely sick or dying from COVID-19. In addition, data has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines have helped reduce the spread of the disease.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer vaccine) has been available for many months for adults and teens over 16. In mid-May, this same vaccine was approved for children over 12. As families begin to explore getting their child the COVID-19 vaccine, they have many questions about the process for getting children the vaccine and the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
1. Is the Pfizer vaccine safe for my child?
Yes. The Pfizer vaccination safely and effectively protects children over the age of 12 from the COVID-19 virus. Right now, Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine approved for children over 12. These vaccines have been under the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. During clinical trials for children 12-15, there were no safety concerns identified with the Pfizer vaccine, and the vaccine was 100% effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms in children 12-15 years old.
You can learn how messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, like the Pfizer vaccine, work in our blog: How does the vaccine work and is it safe?
2. Can my child get a COVID-19 vaccine during the same visit with other vaccines?
Yes. Your child can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same visit. The way our bodies respond to vaccines and create protection will be the same when a child gets a vaccine alone or with another vaccine. You can ask your doctor for more information.
3. My child hates getting shots. Do they need to get both shots?
Understandably, children don’t like getting shots. However, to get the most protection, every child over 12 should get both shots. You can explain to your child that if they only get the first shot, they won’t be protected the full amount.. For the highest level of protection (nearly 100%), they will need to get the second shot as well.
The second shot should come 21 days after the first shot. It’s best to aim to get the second shot on time, but if you are late getting your child’s second vaccine, you will not need to start over.
Let your child know that you understand why they don’t like shots. However, by getting the vaccine, they are protecting themselves and others from getting sick from COVID-19. They are also helping reduce the risk of spreading the pandemic.
Remind them that once they are fully vaccinated, they can begin to get back to the way things were before the pandemic. Being vaccinated allows them to see friends and family safely, and eventually, they won’t have to wear a mask inside.
You can help your child manage anxiety during the vaccine by:
- Play I Spy with objects around the room.
- Talk about a fun memory you have together
- Discuss all the things you look forward to doing once everyone is fully vaccinated
- Take deep breaths together to blow the pain out
- Be supportive if your child feels scared or cries
4. Where can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Many local pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc.) have walk-in or scheduled appointments available for vaccines. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children over 12, so you may want to check that your pharmacy offers the Pfizer vaccine before making the trip for a walk-in appointment.
Your family can also use this website to find vaccine availability near you. If you are having trouble finding a vaccine online, you can call 1-800-232-0233 to get assistance.
You can also check with your child’s healthcare provider about whether they offer the COVID-19 vaccine. If they don’t, they may be able to connect you with information about where to get the vaccine. If Hazel is available at your school, a Hazel doctor can help with this as well.
5. How much will it cost for my child to get the vaccine?
The US federal government provides the vaccine for free to all people over the age of 12 who live in the United States. This service is available regardless of their immigration or health insurance status.
No matter where you take your child to get the vaccine, even if it is out of your network, or if your family doesn’t have health insurance, the vaccine is available to every person at no cost.
6. What should I know going into my child’s vaccine appointment?
Before your child gets their vaccine:
- Discuss why it’s important to take this step towards protection.
- Let your healthcare provider know about any allergies your child may have
- Avoid giving your child pain relievers before vaccination to prevent side effects.
During the vaccine:
- Your child will need to keep their mask on during the shot.
- Comfort your child during the appointment, they may be nervous or scared, and that’s okay!
- Your child should be seated or lying down during vaccination (to prevent fainting or injuries from falling down)
After the vaccine:
- You will be given a vaccine card with information about your child’s vaccine. The card will list the type of vaccine, the date of the shots, and where they received the shots. You will need to keep this card in a safe place and bring the card for your second appointment.
- If you do not receive a vaccine card, contact the vaccine site or your state health department to find out how you can get a card.
- After your child’s COVID-19 vaccination, they will be asked to stay for 15–30 minutes seated for observation in case they have a severe allergic reaction and need immediate treatment.
- Your child will not be fully protected until two weeks after the second dose.
- Be sure to keep the vaccine card in a safe place long term, you may need to show it in the future.
7. Will my child feel sick after the vaccine?
Similar to adults, your child may feel no side effects after the vaccine, or they may feel a little sore. These side effects are normal and a sign that they are building protection against COVID-19. Side effects may include:
- Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- Muscle pain
The side effects should go away within a few days. You can ask your doctor about ways you can take care of your child at home, including resting and taking non-aspirin pain killers. Be sure to read the medication label carefully and reach out to your doctor or pharmacist with any dosage questions.
There have been rare cases reported for heart inflammation several days after getting an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. This inflammation is called myocarditis and pericarditis. These rare cases have been mostly in adolescents and young adults, and most patients who sought care responded well to medicine and felt better quickly.
If your child feels any of these symptoms within a week of either dose of the vaccine, seek medical care:
- Fast-beating, pounding, or fluttering heart
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Remember, these reports have been rare, and getting vaccinated is the best way to help protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. If you have any questions about getting the vaccine for your child, you should feel free to speak with your healthcare provider.
The information in this blog is considered true and correct at the date of publication. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information.