The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted an Emergency Use Authorization allowing adolescents ages 12-15 to get the COVID vaccine — another giant leap forward in the fight against this coronavirus.
Your 12-year-old is eligible for the COVID vaccine! Here’s what a pediatric epidemiologist wants you to know.
“We’re elated to be able to protect more people from COVID-19 through vaccination. We understand that parents may have questions before signing their kids up for the vaccine and we’re always happy to answer those questions and arm families with the information they need to feel comfortable. The biggest things I want parents to know are that this vaccine is safe, effective and our best shot at beating COVID-19,” said Dr. Emily Godbout, epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
Dr. Godbout answers some of the most common questions parents have about the COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents.
Which vaccine is available for kids ages 12+?
The FDA’s most recent EUA is specifically for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 12-15 years old. This is currently the only COVID vaccine authorized for people under 18.
How do we know it’s safe?
Before the FDA grants an EUA, vaccines go through a rigorous series of trials. Children’s immune systems are different from adults’ and they can even vary at different ages. Vaccines are fully tested on specific age groups for their unique stages of development. EUAs are granted for age groups only once the vaccines have proved to be safe and effective. Multiple federal partners are working together to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines are as safe as possible.
The COVID-19 vaccines were developed rapidly not because corners were cut, but because they were a top priority and, thankfully, research on a COVID-19 vaccine didn’t have to start from scratch. Scientists have significant prior experience working with other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine impact fertility?
There is no evidence that any COVID-19 vaccine causes fertility problems. In fact, many professional organizations support and encourage women who are interested in becoming pregnant to get a COVID-19 vaccine since it offers great protection.
Is the COVID vaccine dose for adolescents the same as for adults?
Yes. For the groups approved thus far, the same dose is given no matter the person’s age or size. This is really because the vaccine impacts the immune system, rather than muscles, bones or fat, which are what influence a person’s weight. As studies continue on younger children, we may find that smaller doses are recommended based on the needs and responses of their immune systems.
Are side effects the same in kids and adults?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trials showed that side effects observed in the 12-15 age group were generally consistent with those in the 16-25-year-olds. Mild side effects — such as arm pain, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, chills and fever — are a sign the body is building protection. While they can be annoying, they should go away in a couple days.
How much does the COVID vaccine cost?
There is no out-of-pocket cost for the COVID vaccine, no matter where you receive it. Vaccine administration fees are covered by insurance, Medicaid, Medicare or the federal government for individuals without insurance.
Where can kids 12 and up get the COVID vaccine?
Many health care providers and pharmacies are providing the COVID-19 vaccine. Contact your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider for information about availability, or register with your state’s health department to be notified when it’s their turn for the vaccine.
Will the COVID vaccine be required for school in the fall?
This decision will be up to the individual school districts. For the upcoming school year, it will likely be encouraged rather than required for the authorized age groups. Some colleges and universities, on the other hand, have implemented a COVID vaccine requirement for the 2021-22 academic year. This is certainly something to watch closely as kids and teens prepare for the new school year.
Keep up with the latest COVID vaccine information for kids and teens from Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU at chrichmond.org.