Vaccinating Your Adolescent against COVID-19

Andrew Kung, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MSK Kids

Andrew Kung, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MSK Kids

On August 23, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty®). The FDA stated that the vaccine will continue to be authorized for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15. Andrew Kung, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MSK Kids, explains why Memorial Sloan Kettering is recommending that all patients 12 and older be vaccinated.

How can we be sure the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe for people so young?

Rigorous clinical trials involving 2,260 participants ages 12 to 15 found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. 

Just like adults, these adolescents received two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart.

The side effects were the same as those experienced in people ages 16 to 25 years old. They occurred mostly after the second dose and included pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and muscle and joint pain. These symptoms resolve in 1 to 2 days.

These are impressive and reassuring results. We are urging all our patients to be vaccinated because people with cancer are at greater risk for serious complications from COVID-19. Currently, there are no known risks for people with compromised immune systems to be vaccinated, as the vaccine does not contain a live virus.

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If my child is age 12 to 17 and an MSK patient, can they be vaccinated at MSK?

We are vaccinating the following MSK Kids patients age 12 and over:

  • inpatients
  • outpatients in active treatment who live in New York State
  • outpatients no longer in active treatment who live in New York State
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How can I make an appointment at MSK to get my 12- to 17-year-old vaccinated against COVID-19?

At this time, vaccine appointments for this age group cannot be made through the self-scheduling link on The appointment should only be made by calling your doctor’s office.

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Can my 12- to 17-year-old be vaccinated without a parent or guardian present?

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

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

Pediatric caregivers who are age 18 and over and who routinely undergo COVID-19 testing at MSK according to our policy are eligible to be vaccinated at MSK, even if the child is not eligible due to age or clinical condition. Caregivers of outpatient pediatric patients must be residents of New York State. Our designated appointment staff will help caregivers schedule their vaccination.   

Other family members will not be able to receive the vaccine at MSK. Still, we urge all household members to get vaccinated as soon as they become eligible.

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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.

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August 23, 2021

Additional Resources

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