COVID-19 Vaccine for Ages 12 to 15

Last Updated July 2021 | This article was created by familydoctor.org editorial staff and reviewed by Robert "Chuck" Rich, Jr., MD, FAAFP

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15 on an emergency use basis. The approval was granted after Pfizer-BioNTech announced that the vaccine was found to be 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 during a clinical trial of more than 2,200 adolescents ages 12 to 15.

Following the approval by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that everyone 12 years and older should get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against COVID-19.

“Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic,” the CDC reported. “Getting your child or teen vaccinated can bring you one step closer to enjoying the activities you miss.”

Path to improved health

To be fully vaccinated, your child will need 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered 3 weeks apart, according to the FDA. This is the same vaccine protocol as the one for people 16 years of age and older.

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

Even though children aren’t as likely as adults to be infected with COVID-19, they can still catch it, get sick from it, and spread it to others. Getting your child vaccinated can help protect them, your family, and others.

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.

Plus, getting a vaccine means that you can start returning to normal activities (once you are fully vaccinated). Children are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after receiving their second dose of the vaccine.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for kids 12 to 15?

The FDA and CDC have determined that the vaccine has met rigorous safety and effectiveness standards. No serious safety concerns or side effects were seen in the clinical trials. The maker of the vaccine continues to monitor its safety, too. They do this by keeping up with those 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.

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 12 years old and older get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. If your child hasn’t received their vaccine yet, talk to their doctor about getting it.

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 fast and 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 vaccines.gov; text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX); or call 1-800-232-0233. Be sure to specify that the vaccine is for an adolescent 12 to 15 years old.

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

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. The CDC has published guidelines for getting the vaccine, which outline precautions for vaccination in people who have known allergies to components of the vaccine or had an allergic reaction to the first dose of a mRNA vaccine. 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?
  • Does my child need to continue wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with people even after 2 doses of the vaccine?
  • If my child has an underlying condition, can they still get the COVID-10 vaccine?

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: COVID-19