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3/26/21blog post

Is the COVID vaccine safe for my teenager?

A lot can change in a year! Last March, we were in the middle of lockdown and learning more each day about COVID-19. A year later, we have three proven and tested vaccines against the virus and this week, the vaccine became available to individuals aged 16 and older in Montgomery County.

Children account for about 25% of the U.S. population, and so getting them vaccinated will be critical for achieving herd immunity and ultimately ending this pandemic. And, we know there’s a lot of information to take in and consider when it comes to vaccinating your child. That’s why we sat down with J. Michael Klatte, chief, division of infectious disease at Dayton Children’s to talk about all things vaccine!

How do I know the vaccine is safe for my teenager?
These vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety before being made available to the public. The vaccines currently available for teenagers are the same as those being given to adults. Each vaccine that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been tested and proven to be effective against severe COVID-19 disease.

Is the vaccine given to adults the same vaccine given to teenagers? Younger children?
Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for use in teenagers 16 years and older, while the versions from Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson are approved for use in teens 18 years and older.

The planned vaccine studies currently underway in younger children (ages 12 and younger) are using the same vaccine products approved for adults. However, the studies in younger children are trying to figure out the ideal dosing strengths and regimens for these age groups. We know that children’s immune systems can respond to vaccines (and infections) in different ways than adults. We want vaccine dosing for kids that’s not too strong or cause a lot of unwanted side effects, but at the same time we want dosing that’s effective enough to allow kids to develop long-lasting protection against the virus.

When will my child, younger than 16, be eligible for the vaccine? 
This depends on the progress and findings of the planned vaccine trials for children and those that are currently taking place. It might also depend upon the specific age of your child.

Moderna and Pfizer just recently started testing the vaccine in children, ranging between 6 months to 12 years. It’s possible that we could have a vaccine for at least some of the older children and younger teenagers before the beginning of the next school year.  

Do teenagers have similar side effects to the vaccine as adults?
Based on what has been reported so far, side effects of the vaccine in teenagers have been similar to those seen in adults. Many children have not experienced any side effects at all.

Even if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s still extremely important to avoid large crowds, socially distance, and to wear well-fitting masks as we work toward achieving herd immunity for our community and ending this pandemic once and for all.

J. Michael Klatte, MD

division chief infectious disease
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