Should my 12 to 15-year-old get vaccinated?

The Pfizer vaccine is safe for children aged 12-15

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been cleared by the FDA for use in children ages 12 and up. Pfizer started testing their vaccine in 12 to 15-year-olds in July 2020 and received FDA authorization for this age group in May 2021. To date, over 1.5 million 12 to 15-year-olds and 2.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds have gotten at least one dose of this vaccine. There are multiple surveillance systems in place to monitor for any adverse events. These systems are so sensitive that 7 cases of heart inflammation (myocarditis) have been identified among the millions of children that have been vaccinated; this condition is very rare and has not actually been linked to the vaccine.

There is no reason to expect long term side effects

Some people have asked about possible long-term adverse effects that may take years to surface. Vaccines have been safely, effectively, and widely used for over 100 years, with no evidence of long-term adverse effects. Rare adverse events from vaccine administration usually occur within minutes to two months after the vaccine is given. Though the mRNA technology used in COVID vaccines is newer, it’s been under study for over 10 years. And doctors have no reason to think it will be associated with long-term side effects. We do know, however, that long-term effects from even mild initial COVID-19 infection are a real concern for many patients, including children

COVID-19 is more common in adolescents than children

Although we know that children are at lower risk from COVID-19 infection, those ages 12 to 17 are twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than younger children. Since young people can have infections with very mild symptoms, they can unknowingly infect family members or other close contacts who are older, at higher risk, or unimmunized. There are still community members who are immunocompromised because of cancer treatments, treatment for autoimmune diseases, or other conditions, for whom the vaccine may not be as effective. Vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds therefore reduced their risk and the risk of friends and family.

Vaccines help get your family back into a normal rhythm

In the US, vaccinated children do not have to quarantine, stay home from school, or avoid travel after exposure to COVID. This allows families to live life with more freedom and fewer disruptions. The vaccine is more available than ever now in the US, and it’s being offered for free at many convenient locations; some places even offer walk-in or same-day appointments. Check with your local health department or for information on where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine for your 12 to 15-year-old today. 

Last update: June 3, 2021, 9:00am ET

Science review: AGB, ERS, JAB