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COVID-19 vaccine cleared for kids 12 to 15

Smiling African American teenage boy

Kids as young as 12 can now get a COVID-19 vaccine.

On May 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized an expanded use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to include children 12 and up. Previously, the vaccine had been OK'd for emergency use only in people 16 and up.

Safe and effective in younger teens

Before deciding to expand Pfizer's emergency use authorization, FDA reviewed evidence from ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trials in adolescents.

Safety data came from a trial of 2,260 kids ages 12 through 15. Half of them received the vaccine. Most were then followed for two or more months after their second dose.

To see how well the vaccine worked, FDA looked at immune responses in the kids who received the vaccine. And they watched for COVID-19 cases among all kids in the study.

Among the key findings:

Side effects were mild. The most common side effects from the vaccine were like those seen in older kids and adults. And they went away after a few days. They included a sore arm where the shot was given, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain.

The vaccine worked. It caused an immune response that was at least as good as the immunity seen in people ages 16 to 25. What's more, it was 100% effective at preventing COVID-19.

Pediatricians weigh in

In a statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraged parents to consider vaccinating their eligible kids. While COVID-19 does not pose the same risk to healthy children as it does to adults, it is not a harmless illness for kids. Thousands of children in the U.S. have gotten very sick from the virus since the pandemic began over a year ago. Hundreds of children have died.

Another upside of having a vaccine for younger teens? Being protected may help them start to enjoy activities again that are important for their health and development, the AAP also suggested.

Getting the vaccine for your child

Your child's healthcare provider can help answer questions about the vaccine.

You can check with your local health department to find out how to make a vaccine appointment.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about the vaccine:

  • The Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses, three weeks apart. This is the same as for people 16 and up.
  • Kids should not get the vaccine if they are allergic to any of its ingredients.
  • Kids can get the vaccine at the same time as other shots.

Do you have questions about how the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine works? Learn more.

Reviewed 8/30/2021

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