People ages 12 to 15 are the latest age group eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. John O’Reilly, Chief of Pediatrics at Baystate Health, says parents and guardians should feel comfortable because it is safe, effective and builds immunity for that age group.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the “go-ahead” recently, allowing “tweens” and younger teens to get the vaccine – those age 12 to 17 can only get the Pfizer vaccine, while people age 18 and older can get any vaccine. The CDC says that though fewer children are affected by the virus than adults, they can still be infected, get sick and spread it to others, so the vaccine helps protect them and those with whom they come in contact.
“I think our kids in that age group have suffered with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, substance use, and more through the pandemic,” Dr. O’Reilly says. “Hospital admissions have been through the roof the last few months of the pandemic because of that, so we need to provide them with some sense of normalcy.”
Dr. O’Reilly added that Baystate Health and others can help by vaccinating 12- to 15-year-old children so they can get back to school, sports, summer camps, concerts, clubs and other activities they’ve missed for so long.
COVID-19 Vaccines are Safe and Effective
The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for ages 12 and up because, after intensive safety monitoring, the vaccines are found to be safe and effective. There are other benefits to getting vaccinated as well, as Dr. O'Reilly points out:
“A vaccinated child is a safe child. We need to help bring back their sense of wellness, self-esteem,” he says. “Also, though tweens and teens have displayed less physical disease after contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, some older adolescence have experienced brain fog, fatigue and chronic issues. “The other issue is that if they aren’t vaccinated but are exposed, they can bring it back into their homes and give it to parents, grandparents and others. Studies have shown that getting vaccinated not only prevents adolescents from getting COVID-19, but from transmitting it, and that’s a big added bonus.”
Stopping the Pandemic
O’Reilly says as families start thinking about summer and vacations to see other members of the family, it’s good to get all who are eligible vaccinated. The vaccine will become more available now that the FDA has approved Pfizer vaccines to be stored in regular freezers and refrigerators, which means more facilities will be able to store and administer it like doctors’ offices.
According to the CDC, widespread vaccination is critical to stop the pandemic. Children ages 12 to 15 will need a second Pfizer shot three weeks after the first and two weeks after that will be considered fully vaccinated. They can also receive the COVID-19 vaccine along with other vaccines.
Talk to Your Kids About What to Expect
Parents and guardians should talk with their children about what to expect while getting the shot and possible side effects after: pain, swelling and redness at the injection site and fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea several hours later. Parents should also discuss the use of non-aspirin pain relievers with pediatricians. The CDC offers tips for talking with your children about getting the vaccine.
The good news: Once tweens and teens are fully vaccinated, they can resume many of the activities they participated in before the pandemic.
Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines and why we recommend getting vaccinated.