Should my 16-year-old get vaccinated?

Yes. Your teenager should get vaccinated. Currently, 16- and 17-year-olds can get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. So far, the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only authorized for adults. This is because Pfizer included 16-and 17-year-olds in their initial clinical studies, while the other vaccine companies did not. 

The Pfizer COVID vaccine is safe for 16- and 17-year-olds. At this point, over 2 million 16- and 17-year-olds have received the Pfizer version of the vaccine. After giving that many doses, with lots of systems in place to catch any potential complications, we can now be confident that the vaccine is safe in this age group. 

Vaccinating teenagers is important both for their health and to move the country towards reopening with in-person school. Although we know that young people are at lower risk from COVID-19 infection, children under 18 make up 1-3% of all COVID-related hospitalizations. These include classic COVID infections and over 3,000 cases of a rare but severe condition known as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). There are increasing reports of so-called “long COVID” symptoms lingering many months after even mildly symptomatic or even asymptomatic initial COVID infections, including in children

Teenagers are also an important source of COVID-19 spread. Since young people can have infections with mild or no symptoms, they can unknowingly infect family members or other close contacts who are older, at higher risk, or unimmunized. As infections in your community fall, there will be less frequent needs for disruptive quarantines. By immunizing 16- and 17-year-olds (and hopefully soon 12 to 15-year-olds), more schools will be able to open up and stay open for in-person teaching, and more families will be able to gather and travel together this summer. 

So keep yourself and your family safe, and get your teenagers vaccinated.

Last update: May 7, 2021, 9:40am ET

Science review: GSN, JAB