Pediatric and Adolescent FAQ

Dartmouth Health offers the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for children and adolescents ages 5 to 17. These vaccines will help to protect our children, loved ones, and community members from COVID-19.

  • For questions about vaccination for kids ages 5 to 11, please refer to our frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11.
  • For questions about vaccination for kids ages 12 to 17, please see below.
  • For COVID-19 vaccination clinic information for kids and adults, please see our COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics page.

COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 12 to 17 FAQ

Why should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Despite the fact that many children experience less severe illness from COVID-19, some children suffer serious complications. There is also growing evidence that as many as 25% of children suffer from symptoms such as respiratory issues, fatigue, and stomach problems, for weeks or months (sometimes referred to as “long haul” disease). And, just like adults, children who have few or no symptoms can still transmit the virus to others. The surest way to protect children and our communities from the harmful effects of COVID-19 is to get the vaccination.

Vaccines, along with mask-wearing, physical distancing, and other precautions will help ensure your child’s return to things they’ve missed such as sports, camp, and other group activities in the future.

Which COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved for use in teens?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and Moderna vaccine are both approved for use in individuals 6 month through 17 years of age.

How do we know the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children ages 12 to 17?

Clinical trials were conducted on tens of thousands of individuals ages 16 and older. These trials showed that the vaccine was safe and effective for ages 16 and older. Additional trials were then conducted with 2,200 teens between the ages of 12 and 15. These also showed the vaccines to be remarkably safe and effective. With this additional data, the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) extended the Emergency Use Authorization to this age group, which was supported by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Learn more about the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

How does it work?

The Pfizer vaccine doesn’t include any dead or living virus; instead, it is based on an mRNA platform. mRNA vaccines are made out of nucleic acids, which are instructions for making proteins in our cells. In this case, they direct how to make a small piece of the outside of the COVID virus, which our immune system then makes antibodies against to protect us. The mRNA from the vaccine is in the cell temporarily and then breaks down quickly, and the small protein that it has made also is broken down. The mRNA does not go into the nucleus of our cells or become part of our genetics in any way.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine affect a child’s development or fertility?

There is no evidence that this vaccine will affect development or fertility. The CDC is following tens of thousands of women who have taken the vaccine, including many who have become pregnant since having the vaccine. No issues have been found.

What are the side effects of the vaccine for children?

Based on clinical trials, Pfizer reported that the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are similar in children and adults. While some children won’t experience any reactions to the vaccine, others may experience a sore arm, some redness and/or swelling at the injection site, and maybe a low-grade flu-like illness (including fever and headache). These symptoms are most often gone within 48 hours. While many people are concerned about the "long-term" effects of vaccines, based on all vaccines that have been created so far, there have been no side effects from vaccination that have been found more than 6 weeks after vaccination. The Pfizer vaccine has been studied for 12 months so far, with no significant side effects beyond the first several days of the vaccine.

Are dosages the same for children as they are for adults?

The FDA’s EUA approved the Pfizer vaccine for teens between the ages of 12 and 15 at the same dosage as that for adults. This is similar to other vaccines that are routinely given. For example, the dose for flu vaccine is the same for everyone from 3 years of age to adults, regardless of size.