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COVID-19 Vaccine and Kids: Your Questions Answered

Last updated: 4/12/2021

COVID-19 vaccine questions? You are not alone. Many parents and families are still asking about how COVID-19 vaccines are made, how they work in the body, and how safe they are. Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., Medical Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Cook Children's, is here to provide clear, honest answers to those questions and more.

Answering your questions

We know that you have many questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and when it will be available for children. Information is changing rapidly, but we want to do our best to answer your questions with what we know so far.

About the Vaccine: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently authorized the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines developed by the drug companies Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech. This means that the vaccines can be offered to individuals in the midst of the current public health emergency even though drug trials are ongoing.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine for my child when it becomes available?

Pfizer-BioNTech recently released information regarding their COVID-19 vaccine being safe and effective for children 12 to 15. The vaccine is currently available for use in those 16 and older based on previous trials and is approved for emergency use authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pfizer is expected to apply for an EUA for this younger age group in the next few weeks.

We know many parents have questions ranging from how safe the vaccine is for your child down to when it will be available. Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of infectious diseases at Cook Children’s Medical Center, and Nicholas Rister, M.D., a pediatric infectious diseases specialist agree it’s safe to get children vaccinated once it’s approved. You can read more about the vaccine here.

Is the vaccine safe?

There's still a lot to learn about the vaccine when it comes to kids, but we hope this information provided by Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., Medical Director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children's, is helpful as you begin to consider vaccinating your children against COVID-19 when it is released for them.

Studies of the vaccine's safety are still underway, even for those being distributed under the FDA's emergency use authorization. Even though these vaccines were produced faster than ever before, the FDA says safety measures have not been compromised and the benefits  provided by the vaccine outweigh any risks associated with it.

Most people who reported an adverse reaction to the vaccine said they experienced the same reactions commonly reported with other immunizations—injection site reactions, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain and fever for a few hours to a few days following a shot. Some vaccine recipients experienced swollen lymph nodes briefly after being immunized, which is believed to be a result of the vaccine activating an immune system response.

Of 38,000 Pfizer trial participants, four cases of Bell's palsy, a condition that causes weakness in facial muscles, were reported so far. All four cases occurred in vaccine recipients and none in placebo recipients (people who are participating in the trial but did not receive the vaccine in their shots). This is a normal rate of occurrence of Bell's palsy in general—with or without a vaccine—but scientists will continue to observe any incidences of this condition as the vaccine is distributed more widely. The same is true for eight cases of appendicitis in trial participants who received the vaccine and four in those who received a placebo. Study investigators do not believe the appendicitis was related to the vaccine.

Is the vaccine safe for people of color?

Yes! Black, Native Americans, Hispanic and other racial/ethnic minority families have been hit harder by COVID-19 than other families. Early on, families of color lost loved ones at a higher rate than other people. We still have a lot of work to do to make things better for all of us, but there is also a lot of pride people of color can have in the making of the vaccine.

Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D., was the lead scientist for one of the vaccines that is already in use. She is an African-American woman from North Carolina. Scientists and researchers, like her, follow laws that prevent unjust past research abuse.

Today, we have more rules in place to save lives and protect people. In the COVID-19 vaccine studies, about 10% of volunteers were Black or African American and 20% were Hispanic. The study results showed that the vaccine was equally safe in all volunteers. Many adults, including Black, Native American, Hispanic, and other minorities, have already received the shot. Others are waiting to roll up their sleeves and get the shot when they can.

What if I’m pregnant or want to have a baby someday? Should I get the vaccine?

Pregnant women should talk to their doctor before they get the vaccine to make the right choice for them. Pregnancy is not considered a reason to not get vaccinated.

I’m healthy. Why do I need the vaccine?

Even if you are young and healthy, you should get the vaccine. People who are considered low risk for getting really sick from COVID-19 can still pass the virus on to other people who may not do as well. The vaccine protects you, but also all of your loved ones. The more people who get the vaccine in your community, the safer everyone will be.

When can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older and the Moderna is for individuals 18 years of age or older.

So far, the vaccine has not been tested on anyone younger than 12. Kids aren't just little adults, so more testing is needed before it can be approved for use in children. It could be several months before the vaccine is available for the general public, and it could be longer before it's offered to anyone younger than 16.

We will continue to follow  CDC's strict criteria about who should receive the COVID-19 vaccine and when that should happen.

Will my child need a COVID-19 vaccine every year like the flu shot?

We don't yet know if the COVID-19 vaccine will be once and done or if it will be needed every year. More studies are needed to understand whether or not the protection it provides is long term.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine similar to other vaccines?

The result produced from both traditional vaccines and the new COVID-19 vaccine is the same—an immune system response that produces antibodies. Those antibodies protect an individual from illness if they come in contact with the virus. But, the way in which other vaccines versus the COVID-19 vaccine produce that response is different.

Traditional vaccines are made using a weakened or dead virus that triggers the immune system to make antibodies against the virus. The COVID-19 vaccine uses genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) to instruct the body's immune cells to produce a protein also found in COVID-19 so that the body can recognize the virus and produce antibodies against it.

To learn more about how an mRNA vaccine works, log on to and search "understanding mRNA".

Is the vaccine effective in preventing COVID-19 disease?

Current data shows that Pfizer's vaccine is 95 percent effective in protecting against COVID-19, while Moderna reports a 94.5 percent rate of effectiveness.

My child has underlying health conditions. Will the vaccine be safe for them?

More studies are needed to determine the safety of the vaccine in children, particularly those with underlying health conditions. Currently, there are no known risks for those with compromised immune systems because the vaccine does not contain a live virus. If your child has a history of allergic reaction, you should consult their pediatrician before vaccinating.

If my child has already had COVID-19, do they need to be vaccinated?

We don't know how long one is immune to COVID-19 after getting and recovering from the virus. We also don't know if the virus itself or the vaccination does a better job in producing immunity. So, for now, adults who have had the virus can be vaccinated after they have recovered. Hopefully, there will be data answering this question for children in the months ahead.


  • Antibodies: Blood proteins produced in response to and counteracting a specific antigen.
  • Antigen: A toxin or other foreign substance which generates an immune response in the body, especially the making of antibodies.
  • Appendicitis: An inflammation of the appendix, which is a small tube leading off from the intestine.
  • Lymph: A colorless fluid containing white blood cells, which covers the tissues and drains through the lymphatic system into the bloodstream.
  • Lymph nodes: A number of small swellings in the lymphatic system where lymph is filtered and lymphocytes are formed.
  • Placebo: A harmless pill or injection given during a clinical trial that may affect the mental and emotional state of a person but not the physical body.

Referenced source: Merriam-Webster

Vacuna COVID-19 y Niños: respuestas a sus preguntas

Actualizado: 4/12/2021

Teenager and vaccine

Sabemos que tiene muchas preguntas sobre la vacuna COVID-19 y cuándo estará disponible para los niños. La información está cambiando rápidamente, pero queremos hacer todo lo posible para responder a sus preguntas con lo que sabemos hasta ahora.

Acerca de la Vacuna: La Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos (FDA, por sus siglas en inglés) autorizó recientemente el uso de emergencia de dos vacunas COVID-19 desarrolladas por las compañías farmacéuticas Moderna y Pfizer-BioNTech. Esto significa que las vacunas se pueden ofrecer a las personas en medio de la emergencia de salud pública actual a pesar de que las pruebas de investigación con estas vacunas aún continúan.

¿Es segura la vacuna?

Los estudios sobre la seguridad de la vacuna todavía están en curso, incluso para aquellos que se distribuyen bajo la autorización de uso de emergencia de la FDA. A pesar de que estas vacunas se produjeron más rápido que nunca, la FDA dice que las medidas de seguridad no se han visto comprometidas y que los beneficios proporcionados por la vacuna superan cualquier riesgo asociado con ella.

La mayoría de las personas que notificaron una reacción adversa a la vacuna dijeron que experimentaron las mismas reacciones comúnmente reportadas con otras vacunas: reacciones en el lugar de la inyección, fatiga, dolor de cabeza, dolor muscular, dolor en las articulaciones y fiebre durante unas horas o unos días después de una inyección. Algunas personas que recibieron la vacuna experimentaron inflamación de los ganglios linfáticos brevemente después de ser inmunizados, lo que se cree que es el resultado de la activación de una respuesta del sistema inmunitario.

De los 38,000 participantes del estudio de Pfizer, hasta el momento se informaron cuatro casos de parálisis de Bell, una afección que causa debilidad en los músculos faciales. Los cuatro casos ocurrieron en personas que recibieron la vacuna y ninguno en las personas que recibieron el placebo (personas que participan en el ensayo pero no recibieron la vacuna en sus vacunas). Esta es una tasa normal de aparición de la parálisis de Bell en general, con o sin una vacuna, pero los científicos continuarán observando cualquier incidencia de esta afección a medida que la vacuna se distribuya más ampliamente. Lo mismo ocurre con ocho casos de apendicitis en los participantes del ensayo que recibieron la vacuna y cuatro en los que recibieron un placebo. Los investigadores del estudio no creen que la apendicitis esté relacionada con la vacuna.

¿Cuándo puede mi hijo recibir la vacuna COVID-19 de Pfizer o Moderna?

La FDA ha autorizado la vacuna Pfizer para personas mayores de 16 años y Moderna es para personas de 18 años o mayores.

Hasta ahora, la vacuna no se ha probado en personas menores de 12 años. Los niños no son solo adultos pequeños, por lo que se necesitan más pruebas antes de que puedan ser aprobadas para su uso en niños. Podrían pasar varios meses antes de que la vacuna esté disponible para el público en general y podría ser más tiempo antes de que se ofrezca a cualquier persona menor de 16 años.

Seguiremos siguiendo los estrictos criterios de los CDC sobre quién debe recibir la vacuna COVID-19 y cuándo debe suceder.

¿Mi hijo necesitará una vacuna COVID-19 cada año como la vacuna contra la gripe?

Todavía no sabemos si la vacuna COVID-19 se hará una vez o si será necesaria cada año. Se necesitan más estudios para entender si la protección que proporciona es a largo plazo.

¿La vacuna COVID-19 es similar a otras vacunas?

El resultado producido tanto a partir de las vacunas tradicionales como de la nueva vacuna COVID-19 es el mismo, una respuesta del sistema inmunitario que produce anticuerpos. Esos anticuerpos protegen a un individuo de la enfermedad si entran en contacto con el virus. Sin embargo, la forma en que la vacuna COVID-19 produce esa respuesta es diferente comparada a otras vacunas.

Las vacunas tradicionales se fabrican utilizando un virus debilitado o muerto que desencadena el sistema inmunitario para producir anticuerpos contra el virus. La vacuna COVID-19 utiliza material genético llamado ARN mensajero (ARNm) para instruir a las células inmunitarias del cuerpo a producir una proteína que también se encuentra en COVID-19 para que el cuerpo pueda reconocer el virus y producir anticuerpos contra él.

Para obtener más información sobre cómo funciona una vacuna de ARNm, visite la página de internet y busque "entender vacunas de ARNm".

¿Es la vacuna eficaz en la prevención de la enfermedad de COVID-19?

Los datos actuales muestran que la vacuna de Pfizer es 95 por ciento eficaz en la protección contra COVID-19, mientras que Moderna reporta una tasa de efectividad del 94.5 por ciento.

Mi hijo tiene condiciones de salud subyacentes. ¿Será segura la vacuna para él?

Se necesitan más estudios para determinar la seguridad de la vacuna en los niños, en particular aquellos con condiciones de salud subyacentes. Actualmente, no existen riesgos conocidos para las personas con sistemas inmunitarios comprometidos porque la vacuna no contiene un virus vivo. Si su hijo tiene antecedentes de reacción alérgica, debe consultar a su pediatra antes de vacunarlo.

Si mi hijo ya ha tenido COVID-19, ¿necesita vacunarse?

No sabemos cuánto tiempo uno es inmune a COVID-19 después de contraer y recuperarse del virus. Tampoco sabemos si el virus en sí o la vacunación hace un mejor trabajo en la producción de inmunidad. Por lo tanto, por ahora, los adultos que han tenido el virus pueden ser vacunados después de haberse recuperado. Con suerte, habrá datos que respondan a esta pregunta para los niños en los próximos meses.


  • Anticuerpos: Proteínas de la sangre producidas en respuesta y contrarrestando un antígeno específico.
  • Antígeno: Una toxina u otra sustancia extraña que genera una respuesta inmune en el cuerpo, especialmente la fabricación de anticuerpos.
  • Apendicitis: Una inflamación del apéndice, que es un tubo pequeño que sale del intestino.
  • Linfa: Líquido incoloro que contiene glóbulos blancos, que cubre los tejidos y drena a través del sistema linfático hacia el torrente sanguíneo.
  • Ganglios linfáticos: Una serie de pequeñas inflamaciones en el sistema linfático donde se filtra la linfa y se forman linfocitos.
  • Placebo: Una píldora o inyección inofensiva que se administra durante un estudio clínico que puede afectar el estado mental y emocional de una persona, pero no del cuerpo físico.

Fuente de información: Merriam-Webster