Kids and the COVID-19 vaccine

Children 5 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and Yale New Haven Health strongly recommends vaccination. The rise of the Omicron variant has resulted in a surge in hospitalizations in children and the vast majority of cases have been with kids who have not gotten vaccinated.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect kids and other family members, including children under 5 who are not yet eligible. For answers to some frequently asked questions, read more below.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Safety for Kids

Why should my child get vaccinated?

In the early months of the pandemic, you may have heard that children are not likely to get COVID-19. However, kids can get severe cases of COVID-19. In recent months, we have seen an increase in COVID-related hospitalizations at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. In addition, hospitalizations have increased nationally for children as a result of the highly contagious Omicron variant. Getting vaccinated is the best way for your child to be protected.

All age groups contribute to transmission of the virus, and vaccinating children helps to reduce spread of COVID-19 across families, schools, and communities.

What vaccine will my child get?

Right now the only vaccine available to kids 5-11 is the Pfizer vaccine. The CDC recommends a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for some immunocompromised children 5-11. Those 12 and older are eligible to receive a booster dose. Learn more about boosters.

Do I need to consult my pediatrician?

If you have any specific health concerns, please contact your pediatrician to discuss your options.

What are the side effects?

Just like with adults, common side effects can include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and fever. Side effects are usually mild and should only last 1-2 days. Severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, have been rarely reported following receipt of COVID-19 vaccines. This is the reason why everyone who receives the vaccine is monitored for at least 15 minutes after their vaccine.

Another rare side effect is myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the muscle cells and includes symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing.

Any child with a history of an immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy, an allergy to polysorbate, or a history of anaphylaxis due to any cause will be monitored for at least 30 minutes after their vaccine. Trained staff are available on-site to monitor and treat your child if they experience a reaction to the vaccine during this observation period, and emergency treatment can be readily accessed. If your child experiences any unusual or severe symptoms after this period of monitoring, contact your pediatrician or urgent care.

What is myocarditis?

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the muscle cells. It is an extremely rare condition seen in well below 1% of vaccinated teenagers. We have seen a handful of cases, mostly in young male adults after receiving their COVID-19 vaccine. Symptoms typically occur within two weeks of vaccination and can include chest pain, or difficulty breathing. If you experience those symptoms, seek medical attention.

It is important to note that myocarditis can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and our pediatric cardiologists are well trained to deal with any cases. The patients we have seen with myocarditis have had a good recovery. In addition, vaccination is still recommended, as the complications from COVID-19 may be much worse than myocarditis in some children.

Can I give my child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) before vaccination to prevent side effeccts?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises against giving your child a pain-relieving medication before getting the vaccine because it may reduce the immune response to the vaccine. However, if your child develops fever or pain after the vaccine, it is acceptable to provide acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the appropriate dose unless they have a known contraindication.

Is the dose of COVID-19 vaccine the same for 5-11 year-olds as it is for adults?

No. The vaccine dose offered to kids 5-11 is a smaller dose compared to the dose given to adults. This dose was tested during clinical trials and is safe and effective for children.

Can my child get the vaccine if they have food allergies, a history of anaphylaxis, and/or carries an Epi-pen?

Unless your child had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or has an allergy to one of the ingredients in the vaccine (e.g., polyethylene glycol or PEG), your child should be able to get the vaccine. If you have concerns regarding your child’s history of allergic reactions, you should discuss your child’s history with your pediatrician before getting the vaccine.

If your child has a history of a severe allergic reaction or carries an Epi-pen, please let our staff know on the day of your child’s appointment. They will be able to monitor your child and respond in case they experience a reaction.

My child had a reaction to Miralax or another medication that contains PEG (polyethylene glycol). Is it safe for my child to get the Pfizer vaccine?

If your child has had a severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis), or an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to Miralax or another medication that contains polyethylene glycol (PEG), your child cannot receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Symptoms of this type of allergic reaction include diffuse itching, hives, swelling of face/lips, respiratory distress (e.g. wheezing, stridor) with onset within minutes to hours of taking the medication.

A common, known (intended) effect of orally administered polyethylene glycol is abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. This type of reaction would NOT be considered an allergic reaction unless accompanied by allergic symptoms such as itching, rash, facial swelling, or difficulty breathing.

If my child already had COVID-19, should I bother with vaccination?

Yes, your child should have a COVID-19 vaccination regardless of whether they have already had COVID-19. This is because the vaccine provides additional protection by reducing the risk of a repeat COVID-19 infection. Kids need to wait at least 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19 before getting their vaccination. 

My child has a history of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). Can my child receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Children and young adults who had MIS-C may choose to be vaccinated. If they decide to get the vaccine, CDC suggests they should consider delaying COVID-19 vaccination until they have recovered from this illness and for 90 days after the date of diagnosis of MIS-C.

I have heard that the COVID-19 vaccines may impact fertility. Is there any evidence for this?

There is no evidence that mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 have a negative effect on fertility and theories about COVID-19 vaccines impacting fertility have no scientific basis. Claims that mRNA vaccines will cause the immune system to attack genes or proteins important for reproduction are unfounded and have been refuted by reproductive scientists across the world. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine continue to assert that COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility.

I have heard that some women have experienced menstrual irregularities after a COVID-19 vaccine. Should I be worried about this in my daughter?

At this time, there is no scientific evidence that COVID-19 vaccines themselves cause menstrual changes. Period timing and flow volume can vary due to numerous causes, including stress, illness, and age. Individual patient reports of heavier periods being a temporary side effect of the vaccine could thus be attributable to many other causes. Menstrual irregularities should not be a cause for concern about the vaccine.

kids booster

Pediatric Minute: Should Kids Get a COVID-19 booster shot?

Children ages 12+ are now eligible to receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine.