Children and the COVID-19 vaccine: answers to common questions

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in children ages 5-11 and adolescents and teens 12-17. This marks a big development in COVID protection, but it also raises questions for many parents. Here are answers from Andrew Pavia, MD, a nationally recognized expert who is the director of Hospital Epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and the chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health. 

Why does my child need a vaccine?

The biggest benefit of your child getting a vaccine is to protect them from the disease. Other benefits include: 
  • Participating safely in school, sports, activities, and play dates with friends
  • Traveling with family
  • Protecting others around them, like grandparents, infants, and toddlers
  • Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the community

Children have a lower risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19. However, lower risk does not mean no risk. In Utah in 2021, more than 600 children between 5 and 17 years old were hospitalized with severe symptoms. Two died. More than 100 children developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), which can cause dangerous inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal organs. Some children who get COVID will have symptoms that last for 12 weeks or longer after the infection. This is called Long-COVID. Symptoms of long-COVID include fatigue (extreme tiredness), muscle and joint pain, sleeplessness, headache, difficulty concentrating, and uneven heartbeat for extended periods of time.