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COVID-19 Vaccine for Ages 12 and Older

Last Updated December 2023 | This article was created by editorial staff and reviewed by Robert "Chuck" Rich, Jr., MD, FAAFP

The Centers for Disease Control recommends the updated 2023-2024 Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 12 and older.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the updated 2023-2024 vaccine to protect against COVID-19. Children ages 6 months and older and adults should stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination.

Path to improved health

Vaccination for COVID-19 in adolescents and adults who are not immunocompromised is now simplified.

  • Updated 2023-2024 Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines (also referred to as mRNA vaccines) for adults and children 5 years and older.
  • For children ages 6 months to 4 years with no previous vaccine, the initial vaccination should be either 2 doses of the updated 2023-2024 Moderna or 3 doses of the updated 2023-2024 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
  • Children ages 6 months to 4 years with previous mRNA doses need 1 or 2 doses of the updated vaccine, depending on their prior doses.

In September 2023, the CDC recommended everyone over the age of 6 months who has been fully vaccinated get an updated booster shot ahead of the fall and winter season.

Why should I get my child a COVID-19 vaccine?

Children and adolescents can get COVID-19 just as easily as adults and transmit it to others. See the facts about COVID-19 in children. Getting your child vaccinated will help protect your family and others from serious illness as a result of COVID-19.

Other vaccine benefits include:

  • All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. have been shown to be safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, according to the CDC.
  • Being vaccinated helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • People who are vaccinated are much less likely get COVID-19. If they do, the vaccine prevents them from getting seriously ill.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for kids 12 and older?

Yes, it’s safe. The FDA and CDC have determined that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines met rigorous safety and effectiveness standards. No serious safety concerns or side effects were seen in the clinical trials, and the vaccine makers continue to monitor safety. They do this by keeping up with people who participated in the initial clinical trials.

COVID-19 vaccines have been used under the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, which includes studies in adolescents, according to the CDC. While cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) have been observed in this age group, these instances are rare and mostly mild with symptoms resolving without intensive treatment. The chance of getting myocarditis is much higher if you get COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. The vaccine does not contain a live virus that causes COVID-19. Instead, it includes messenger RNA (mRNA) to help your body identify and protect against the virus. It does not change your DNA in any way.

When should I get my child the COVID-19 vaccine?

The CDC recommends that all children who are 6 months and older get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible to protect them against illness from COVID-19. If your child hasn’t received their vaccine yet, talk to their doctor about getting it and any concerns that you have. If your child has recently had a COVID-19 infection, you’ll also want to talk with their doctor about when they can get their primary series or booster shot.

If my child has already had COVID-19, do they need to get the vaccine?

Health experts say that you should get the vaccine even if you’ve already had COVID-19. They believe the vaccine could provide stronger immunity, even for those who have had the virus. This is because coronaviruses often do not create long-lasting natural immunity in humans. So your child should still be vaccinated.

Where can I find my child a COVID-19 vaccine?

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is easy. About 9 out of 10 Americans live within 5 miles of a COVID-19 vaccination site, according to the CDC. To find the site closest to you, visit; text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX); or call 1-800-232-0233.

How much does a COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of immigration or health insurance status, says the CDC. This means that you cannot be charged for the vaccine. Your vaccination provider may seek reimbursement from your insurance (or Medicare/Medicaid) but cannot charge you the balance of what insurance does not cover.

Things to consider

Similar to adults, your child may have some side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. However, severe side effects are rare. The most common side effects include pain, redness, and swelling in their arm where they got the shot. Other symptoms may include headache, fever, fatigue, and muscle ache. These side effects last only a day or two.

If your child has severe allergies to certain vaccine components, they may not be able to get the vaccine. This does not include allergies to foods such as shellfish or peanuts. As always, if you are unsure, check with your family doctor first.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Can my child get a COVID-19 vaccine during the same visit with other vaccines?
  • How long does protection from the COVID-19 vaccine last?
  • If my child recently had COVID-19, how long do they need to wait to get the vaccine or a booster dose?
  • If my child has an underlying condition, can they still get the COVID-10 vaccine?


The Centers for Disease Control: Stay Up to Date with Vaccines

COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

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