COVID-19 Vaccine and Kids: Safety & What to Expect

Anya Pall - Covid19 Vaccine Pfzier

December 08, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Sejal Bhavsar, M.D.

The Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five and older is now available. The Pfizer vaccine is the only pediatric COVID-19 vaccine that has been authorized for use by the U.S.  Food and Drug Administration at this time after thorough clinical trials proved its safety and effectiveness.

The CDC recommends vaccination even for children who have already had COVID-19 infections, as researchers are still unsure of how long people are protected from getting sick again after recovery. 

COVID-19 Risk in Kids

The very contagious COVID-19 Delta variant is believed to be responsible for a huge increase in pediatric infections that occurred around the start of the 2021 school year, when children and teachers around the country returned to the classroom. While most children who are infected with COVID-19 experience only mild illness, some more severe cases do require hospitalization for treatment of COVID-19 pneumonia and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can affect many organs, including the heart.

Even after treatment for infection, some children experience “long COVID” symptoms for months, including difficulty breathing, brain fog, extreme fatigue, and joint and body aches.  

“In tandem with continued social distancing and mask wearing, vaccinating the pediatric population will allow for children to be safer when returning to school, sports and other activities,” says Sejal Bhavsar, M.D., a board-certified pediatric infectious diseases specialist. “The vaccine can prevent both serious disease and the risk of any long-term problems associated with COVID-19.”

What to Expect With the Vaccine 

“In the clinical trial, children reported side effects of the Pfizer vaccine that were similar to those seen in adults,” says Dr. Bhavsar. “These side effects typically last for just a few days and may be more likely to occur after the second dose.”

Those mild and temporary side effects may include:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

Even less common symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Joint pain

Long-term side effects of the vaccine are unlikely to occur. Millions of people have received the COVID-19 vaccines since December 2020 with no identified long-term side effects. 

Is Myocarditis a Concern?

There have been rare instances of myocarditis—inflammation of the heart typically caused by a viral infection—in children after receiving the vaccine. “While some people who were infected with COVID-19 have experienced more severe heart inflammation as a complication, it’s even more rare after COVID-19 vaccination and usually less severe,” says Dr. Bhavsar.

Like with adults, the Pfizer vaccine should not be given to any child who has a history of allergy to any component of the vaccine. Confirm with your child’s pediatrician that they are an eligible candidate to receive the vaccine.

Next Steps & Resources 

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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