COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Children Ages 6 Months to 17 Years: What You Should Know

Child wearing a mask, looking off camera

The most common side effects from COVID-19 vaccination are soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, body aches, and fever.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that children age 6 months through 17 years get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“COVID-19 illness is typically not serious in children, but there is a chance of severe complications, and children can still spread the disease,” says Mini Kamboj, MSK’s Chief Medical Epidemiologist.

Mini Kamboj

Mini Kamboj

Dr. Kamboj has answers to your questions about getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19.

How can we be sure the vaccines are safe for children?

Rigorous clinical trials found that COVID-19 vaccines were safe and effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Since then, tens of millions of children have been vaccinated. The FDA, CDC, and vaccine manufacturers will continue to monitor new data as more children get vaccinated to ensure that the vaccines are safe.

Are the side effects in children different from those in adults?

The side effects are mostly the same for children. Your child could experience soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, body aches, and fever. These symptoms don’t last long — about 1 to 3 days.

I’ve heard about a severe immune response to COVID-19 in children called MIS-C, or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. Is it possible the vaccines could trigger a severe reaction in children?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a rare complication in children infected with COVID-19. The vaccines do not cause MIS-C, and by preventing COVID-19 infection, they actually prevent MIS-C.

Is there risk of heart problems after the vaccine?

Research has shown that there is a greater risk of heart problems from being infected with COVID-19 than from being vaccinated.  

The group that is most likely to develop this condition after getting the COVID-19 vaccine is young men age 12 to 39. Because of this, this group can wait longer between their first and second dose (of their primary vaccine series) to reduce their risk of myocarditis or pericarditis. They should wait 8 weeks between shots.

Read more about myocarditis, a rare COVID-19 vaccine side effect »

Should children who have a weakened immune system get vaccinated?

Yes. Children who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should get vaccinated. Just like immunocompromised adults, children with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to severe COVID-19 illness.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for people who have had cancer »

How do I schedule a COVID-19 vaccine for my child if they are an MSK patient?

You can schedule a vaccination by talking to your child’s primary doctor at MSK.

My child is a patient at MSK. Can I, as a caregiver, be vaccinated too? What about others in the family? 

At this time, MSK is not vaccinating caregivers or family members of patients.

Can my child be vaccinated without a parent or guardian present?

No. A parent or guardian must be on-site to consent to their child getting the vaccine. They are not permitted to give consent over the phone or electronically.

Can children take the vaccine with other scheduled childhood vaccinations?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines remain effective and safe when given with other vaccines. There is no specific time interval that is recommended between routine vaccinations and the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

However, many vaccinations come with a risk of mild side effects. You may want to schedule your child’s COVID-19 vaccination at a different time from other vaccinations, to reduce the chance that they experience several side effects all at once.

When should my child get vaccinated?

The CDC’s website has resources to guide you on the timing of COVID-19 shots:

Stay Up to Date with Your COVID-19 Vaccines »

COVID-19 Vaccines for People who are Moderately or Severely Immunocompromised »

Updated (Bivalent) COVID-19 Vaccine: Effectiveness, Safety, and Other Important Information
You may have read about updated (bivalent) vaccines that provide protection against Omicron subvariants BA.4/5. Mini Kamboj, Chief Medical Epidemiologist at MSK, has answers to common questions about the shots.

If children are at lower risk of serious complications from COVID-19, why should they get vaccinated?

It’s true that children are at a lower risk overall of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 compared with adults. However, children can still become very sick. Like adults, children can also experience symptoms of long COVID that can affect their quality of life and daily activities. These symptoms are prevented by the vaccine.

Most importantly, children are at least as likely to be infected as adults and spread COVID-19 to others, including in the household and at school.

Should a child who has already had the COVID-19 infection get the vaccine?

Yes, it’s recommended that children who have been infected with COVID-19 should still get vaccinated and boosted. Primary vaccination and booster doses after infection increases protection against future infection and severe disease.

May 5, 2023

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