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, 2021, 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.

This information is about the COVID-19 vaccine for children age 12-17.

Read about the vaccine for children age 5-11 »

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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How can I make an appointment at MSK to get my 12- to 17-year-old vaccinated against COVID-19?

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

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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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When can my 12-to-17-year-old get a booster dose of the vaccine?

Children age 12 through 17 who received the Pfizer vaccine are eligible for a booster dose of Pfizer five months after their second shot. The FDA and CDC recommend booster doses to provide greater protection against severe illness from the disease. The updated recommendation for adolescents, made on January 5, 2022, is based on studies from more than 6,300 teens in Israel who received a booster dose of the vaccine at least five months following completion of the primary two-dose vaccination series.

COVID-19 Booster Shots: Eligibility, Safety, and More You Should Know

Read more »

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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? 

At this time, MSK is not vaccinating caregivers or family members of patients. Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, we encourage family members of our patients to use the following websites to find a location with vaccine availability:

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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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Additional Resources

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