May 14, 2021 Facts about the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children and Teens Ages 12 and Over

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15. It is critically important to know that the COVID vaccine is both safe and highly effective in preventing COVID-19 in this age bracket.

Amisha Malhotra, MDAmisha Malhotra, MD, Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician at The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School answers the most common questions she hears from parents and guardians of children.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?

Yes. The FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for children 12 and up because there is significant evidence of its safety and efficacy. Pfizer-BioNTech tested their vaccine in a trial with 2,200 children, aged 12 to 15, where the vaccine was found to be 100 percent effective in preventing COVID-19. Additionally, the children had a strong immune response with very high antibody levels as a result.

We don’t know the long-term effects of this vaccine, so how can you be so sure?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine uses mRNA to instruct our bodies to produce a protein that will trigger an immune response to COVID-19. Once the instructions are given, mRNA is broken down and discarded from the body. While mRNA vaccines are relatively new, the technology has been developed and studied for decades. The vaccine does not contain any trace of the virus so it is a safe and effective way to fight viruses and does not cross any DNA or other cells that effect human development.

Will this vaccine alter my child’s DNA?

No, it will not. As the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contains mRNA, it does not cross into any part of the DNA or cells that affect DNA and other human development cells.

COVID-19 isn’t dangerous for children so why should I vaccinate my child?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there have been more than 3.85 million cases of COVID-19 in children – accounting for about 14 percent of all cases since the beginning of the pandemic (as of May 6, 2021). Most children who contract COVID-19 will get mild versions, such as a cough or a runny nose, some may develop more severe symptoms or develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome in which multiple organs become inflamed and require treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU). Others have even experienced long-term effects from COVID including debilitating fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating.

Can children spread the virus even if they don’t have symptoms?

Just like adults, a child can have COVID but not show any signs or symptoms of the virus — known as asymptomatic infection — and can unknowingly spread the virus to others, including loved ones.

Will my child still be able to spread the virus even if he or she is vaccinated?

While research is ongoing, studies show that individuals who are fully vaccinated may be less likely to transmit the virus to others.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

Some mild side effects are common and may last for 24 to 48 hours after injection. This is the body’s natural response to building strong immunity. Common side effects include:

  • Pain, redness or itchiness at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Headaches

Who can I speak with to ask specific questions about vaccinating my child?

If you have specific questions or concerns, speak with your child’s physician to discuss the vaccine as well as risks of exposure based on his or her specific health condition.

By vaccinating your child, you are not only protecting them, but you are also protecting those around them, such as their grandparents, younger siblings and family members who are currently too young to receive the vaccine and their classmates. Vaccinating your children can potentially save their lives and the lives of others.

To schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, visit