Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) vaccines are being rolled out with the most thorough vaccine safety program the United States has ever seen, and this is true of children’s vaccines, too.

Thousands of children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old participated in drug trials before the vaccines were granted authorization for emergency use in this age group.

After reviewing the data, regulators determined the vaccine can cause some side effects but is considered safe. In fact, it’s recommended that everyone ages 5 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccine series.

Read on to find out what you can expect when getting your child vaccinated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines in children have side effects similar to those of other routine children’s vaccines. The most common side effect is having a sore arm.

Effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. Some kids won’t have any side effects at all, and severe reactions are rare.

Common side effects

Rare side effects

The following rare side effects were not reported in the study of thousands of children mentioned above but were believed to be possible:

Myocarditis is a disease that causes inflammation of the heart muscles. It can cause chest pain or difficulty breathing and can be fatal in extreme cases.

Adolescents can experience myocarditis as a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, or other routine vaccines for that matter, but it’s rare.

As of the end of 2021, there were 11 verified cases of myocarditis in children ages 5 to 11 years old after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. This was out of about 8 million vaccine doses administered to this age group. So, it can happen, but the chances are very low.

Myocarditis is more likely in people assigned male at birth between the ages of 12 and 29 years, particularly after the second primary dose.

Side effects for children are similar to the side effects that adults feel when getting a COVID-19 vaccination.

If your children have had other routine vaccines, in most cases, you can expect the COVID-19 vaccine to have side effects similar to those.

Not all children will have the same side effects. Some might only have a sore arm, while others might have a headache or fever. Some kids won’t have any side effects at all.

Children who are immunocompromised have a weakened immune system. They could have a genetic immunodeficiency disorder or could be taking medication that weakens their immune system, such as corticosteroids.

A child who’s immunocompromised has a higher risk of serious complications if they develop COVID-19. For this reason, the CDC recommends that children 13 years and older receive a primary vaccination series of three doses. It’s considered safe. Make sure to follow the CDC dosing guidelines or discuss the timing of the primary series or booster with your child’s pediatrician, or a doctor for children.

Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines usually go away in a few days. Depending on how your child feels, they might not participate in their normal activities until the side effects have subsided.

To decrease the severity of side effects, the CDC recommends:

  • Cooling. A clean and cool washcloth on the injection site can reduce pain. An ice pack can also be used to reduce swelling.
  • Movement. Using or exercising the affected arm can help alleviate the soreness more quickly.
  • Hydration. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can reduce some vaccine side effects.
  • Dressing lightly. Loose fitting clothes might be more comfortable if your child has a fever.

It’s common for children to be fearful of getting shots. Consider role-playing in advance with a doll, and allow your child to ask questions.

It can help if you explain to your child that it’s normal to feel a little scared, and then ask what they plan to do about it. You can use distractions such as books or calming music or agree on a reward like a trip to a park.

Should you give your child pain reliever medicine before or after vaccination to alleviate side effects?

It’s not recommended you give your child over-the-counter (OTC) medication just before their vaccination.

Doctors still don’t know how these medications might alter the vaccine’s effectiveness. Consult with a doctor if your child is currently taking any medication to find out what’s recommended for your specific circumstances.

If your child is experiencing discomfort from the side effects after the shot, they can take OTC pain relievers as long as there’s no other medical condition that would prevent them from taking these normally. Check with a healthcare professional if you’re unsure.

It’s currently recommended all children ages 5 years and older get vaccinated against COVID-19. Right now, there are no approved vaccinations for children under the age of 5 years, but this is under review and could change.

If your child has certain medical conditions, it could increase their risk of severe complications if they develop COVID-19. Check with your child’s healthcare team, but in most cases, this makes the vaccine even more important to get.

Some medical procedures or conditions could prevent your child from getting vaccinated right away.

Additionally, children who have received a diagnosis of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) must meet four conditions before they can be vaccinated:

  • clinical recovery has been achieved and typical cardiac function returned
  • it has been 90 days or more since they received their MIS-C diagnosis
  • your child lives in an area of high or substantial community transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, or has an increased risk of exposure
  • MIS-C onset occurred before receiving their COVID-19 vaccination

The World Health Organization (WHO) points out that your child shouldn’t get vaccinated if they’ve previously had a severe allergic reaction to one of the vaccine’s ingredients.

The CDC recommends you should still get vaccinated if you have allergies that aren’t related to vaccines, including allergies to:

If you’re unsure whether your child should get a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s best to check with a doctor.

There’s lots of information about COVID-19 vaccines out there, and there are frequent updates. Here’s the other key points about vaccinations for kids.

Getting vaccinated can protect children from spreading SARS-CoV-2 to others

The virus SARS-CoV-2, much like the bacteria that cause strep throat and pink eye, can be spread easily by children, particularly at school. Many children who contract SARS-CoV-2 may not show symptoms, but they’re still contagious for an average of 2 weeks.

As SARS-CoV-2 spreads, it has more chances to develop in people who might be at high risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms. This might include other children as well as their family members, such as grandparents. As SARS-CoV-2 spreads, it also has more chances to mutate into a new variant.

Children’s COVID-19 vaccines are given at different doses than adult vaccines

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, called Comirnaty, is the only vaccine authorized for use in children ages 5 to 11 years at this time.

The dose for everyone ages 12 years and older is 30 mg. For kids younger than 12 years old, the dose is only 10 mg.

Booster shots are only recommended for people ages 13 years and older.

COVID-19 vaccines are being monitored for safety with the most comprehensive vaccine safety monitoring program in U.S. history.

More than half a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States so far, and that number is climbing. The clinical trials included tens of thousands of participants.

The CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are continuing to monitor vaccines with both existing and new reporting systems. You can participate by reporting your child’s vaccine side effects to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

The CDC recommends that all children ages 5 years and older get vaccinated against COVID-19.

You can expect your child to have some mild side effects, but in most cases, they’ll be similar to those of other routine vaccinations. Severe side effects are rare.

Not only can the vaccine prevent your child from developing COVID-19, but it can also prevent them from spreading it to people who are at a high risk of severe complications or death from the disease. Vaccinating also lowers the risk of severe complications, such as serious illness or hospitalization, if your child does develop COVID-19.

If you have specific concerns for your child, talk with a doctor. If you’re ready to schedule your child’s vaccination, you can search online for a healthcare professional to administer it.