COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids: 5 Things Parents and Guardians Should Know

Joelle Y. Jean, FNP-C, BSN, RN
Updated August 29, 2022
    The Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children between the ages of 5-11. This is what parents and guardians need to know and why nurses are recommending the vaccine for this age group.
    Featured ImageCredit: Getty Images

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    The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children ages 5-11. The emergency release of the vaccine will allow close to 28 million children in the United States to receive vaccination against COVID-19.

    The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and has minimal side effects. According to the White House, 10% of children between the ages of 5-11 have already received their first dose.

    In this article, we discuss frequently asked questions by parents and guardians about the vaccine, how to prepare your child for the shot, and why nurses recommend children receive the vaccine.

    COVID-19 Vaccines for Children: Frequently Asked Questions

    What Should I Know About This Newly Approved Vaccine?

    Here is what you should know about the newly approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine:

    • minusIn early October, drug companies compiled data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and submitted it to be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other CDC advisory panels.
    • minusAfter close to four weeks, the vaccine was approved for emergency distribution. Beginning the week of November 8, children between the ages of 5-11 began receiving the vaccine.
    • minusThe Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only vaccine approved for children between the ages of 5-11.
    • minusThe vaccine is safe, has minimal side effects, and is 90.7% effective.

    Shannon Wong, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, says vaccines have been used successfully to fight other illnesses that were once common. She recommends parents and guardians vaccinate their children.

    “The COVID-19 vaccine can decrease the chances of your child contracting COVID-19,” she says.

    Additionally, if COVID-19 is contracted after receiving the vaccine, the CDC reassures symptoms will be mild.

    Is This COVID-19 Vaccine Safe for Children?

    Yes, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children between the ages of 5-11. According to the CDC, the vaccine has undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

    The 10 microgram vaccine, given in the upper arm, is one-third of the adolescent and adult doses. The smaller dose was chosen to reduce side effects, but the vaccine, given 21 days apart, is still very effective for children.

    “Vaccinating children is the next step in controlling the outbreaks and infections in communities,” Wong says. “Vaccines are the best way to prevent infection.”

    What Side Effects Should My Child Anticipate From the Vaccine?

    Some children may not experience side effects other than pain at the injection site. Other side effects include:

    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Muscle pain

    Side effects should last no more than 1-2 days.

    What Are Serious Side Effects or Symptoms of the COVID-19 Vaccine?

    In very rare cases, children may experience an infection with the following symptoms:

    • Chest pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Dizziness

    This infection is called myocarditis. Although there were no reported cases of myocarditis in their clinical trial, Pfizer does admit that their trials weren’t large enough to catch rare cases.

    In very rare cases, children may experience:

    • Vomiting
    • Bloodshot eyes
    • Stomach pains
    • Diarrhea
    • Skin rash
    • Low blood pressure which causes dizziness and lightheadedness

    This syndrome is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). More than 5,500 children and teens have developed MIS-C. Although rare, MIS-C is a serious condition caused by COVID-19. Children are monitored and cared for in the intensive care unit.

    If your child develops these rare side effects, contact your pediatrician or go to the emergency room immediately.

    Where Will Vaccines Become Available to Kids?

    Vaccines will be available to children at their local pharmacy, pediatrician’s office, or school. Call your pediatrician’s office or school nurse and let them know you would like to schedule your child for the vaccine. You can also contact your state or local health department.

    4 Tips on How to Care for Children With COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects

    Your child may develop side effects after receiving the vaccine.

    “The children in the study tolerated the vaccine well; however, there was some mild pain in the arm, mild headache, and fatigue reported after the first dose,” Wong says. “A small number of children had fever and chills after the second dose.”

    If these happen to your child, you should:

    1. Call and consult your pediatrician or healthcare provider

    2. Take nonaspirin pain relief medication like Tylenol

    3. Put on a cool compress

    4. Take plenty of fluids like Pedialyte or Gatorade

    How to Prepare Your Child to Receive the Vaccine

    You’ve made the decision to get your child vaccinated, but your child may be hesitant or scared to get a shot.

    “Children are hesitant and anxious about needles based on past experiences,” Wong says. “They often start worrying before they even sit in the chair.”

    There are techniques you can use to prepare your child for the vaccine. Distractions include:

    • Singing silly songs
    • Explaining to your child: “First, the nurse will wipe your arm with ‘magic soap’ (alcohol pad), and you will feel a ‘little pinch’ that will only last a few seconds.”
    • Watching their favorite television show
    • Looking away and closing their eyes
    • Giving a reward or prize after the shot
    • Using fun Band-Aids
    • Counting to 10

    Why Nurses Recommend Children Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine

    It is important to vaccinate your children against COVID-19.

    “Vaccinating children is the next step in controlling the outbreaks and infections in communities,” Wong says.

    Studies show that getting the vaccine lowers transmission and protects children from getting COVID-19. Nurses preparing for the child vaccine rollout agree on other benefits like:

    • Going back to a more normal life
    • Helping protect friends, family members, students, and teachers
    • Preventing other variants from appearing

    While COVID-19 infections weren’t as common in the beginning of the pandemic for children, the Delta variant made more children sick than other forms of the disease, Wong says.

    Getting the vaccine reduces the virus’ chances of mutating into other variants. These variants can be even more dangerous. Getting the vaccine for your child helps them to get back to activities they enjoy with less worry.

    Meet Our Contributor

    Portrait of Shannon Wong, MSN, RN, CPNP

    Shannon Wong, MSN, RN, CPNP

    Shannon Wong, MSN, RN, CPNP, is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner. She currently works as the community course coordinator for BSN students at Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. She received a BS in human development from the University of California, Davis, a BSN from Samuel Merritt College, and an MSN from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has spent her career working with and caring for children as a pediatric nurse and pediatric nurse practitioner.

    Feature Image: Renata Angerami / Getty Images