What to Know about Vaccinating Your Child Age 12 through 17 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 what you need to know about getting your adolescent child vaccinated.

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

Read about the vaccine for children age 6 months through 4 years old »

Read about the vaccine for children age 5 through 11 »

How can we be sure the vaccine is safe for this group of children?

Rigorous clinical trials involving 2,260 participants ages 12 to 15 found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Since then, the FDA and CDC have been monitoring new data to ensure that the vaccines are safe.

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 3 days.

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How can I make an appointment at MSK to get my child 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 child 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 child 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 5 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 5 months following completion of the primary two-dose vaccination series.

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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.

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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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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 myocarditis or pericarditis after getting the COVID-19 vaccine is young men aged 12 to 39. These side effects have only occurred in people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine. They usually showed up after the second dose and within a week of vaccination. However, the risk of myocarditis after vaccination is very low.

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


January 7, 2022


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