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COVID-19 Vaccine for Ages 12 to 15

Last Updated January 2022 | 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) authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15 on an emergency use basis. The authorization was granted after Pfizer-BioNTech announced 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.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone 12 years and older get the vaccine to rotect against COVID-19. They also recommend that adolescents receive a booster dose of the vaccine at least 5 months after the second shot. Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for this age group.

“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 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine administered 3 weeks apart. This is the same vaccine protocol as the one for people 16 years of age and older.

The CDC also recommendes that individuals in this age group get a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine 5 months after getting their second vaccine dose to extend protection. Data shows that booster doses increased vaccine effectiveness against the variants, including Delta and Omicron.

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. 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.

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 Pfizer vaccine 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. 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 5 years old and older get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. If your child hasn’t received their vaccine yet, talk to their doctor about getting it and any concerns that you have.

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 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; the only vaccine they can receive is the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

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, tour 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 published guidelines for getting the vaccine, which outline precautions for vaccination in people with known allergies to the vaccine components or had an allergic reaction to the first dose of an 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

CDC: COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens

COVID-19 Boosters

COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

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