Ask SciMoms: When should I get the COVID vaccine for my kids?

This FDA is likely to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for 12-15 year olds by early next week. With this announcement, many parents are wondering when, and even if, to get the COVID vaccine for their kids.

The short answer: kids should get the vaccine as soon as one is available to them. 

Delaying COVID vaccines for kids is a risky strategy

As with all vaccines, there is no benefit to delaying vaccinations, only added risk. Just as waiting for a “better” COVID vaccine only comes with additional risk, waiting to get the COVID vaccine for kids only adds risk — both for your child and for the community. 

The benefits of COVID vaccination for individuals and communities are clear from clinical trials and real-world data in adults and the new clinical trials in kids. Specifically for kids age 12-15, the preliminary data announced in early April showed 100% efficacy at preventing symptomatic illness in this age group.

We have written about the risks of delaying routine childhood vaccinations, and many of these risks hold true for the COVID vaccine. Each day that your child remains unvaccinated increases their risk of infection and illness. Delaying fails to provide the bubble of immunity that younger kids and those unable to be vaccinated rely on. In our communities, waiting slows our collective progress toward herd immunity. The longer we take to get to herd immunity, the more opportunity the virus has to mutate and spread, potentially evading the protection that current vaccines provide.  

If kids are not high-risk, why do they need a vaccine?

We have written previously that kids are not in a high-risk category for COVID (meaning that they are less likely to have severe cases). There is a pervasive belief that because kids as a group are not in a high-risk category, they are individually safe from COVID. However, this ignores that “not high-risk” is not the same as no risk and that continued spread allows new variants to develop. This also ignores that although risk (the probability of severe outcomes or death) may be low, the potential harm is severe. Some kids do get severely sick, some die, and some develop “long COVID”. Unfortunately, we cannot know ahead of time which kids will get severely ill, die, or have long-term consequences of infection (“long COVID”).  

As with other childhood vaccinations, vaccines provide the best way to protect your child from severe disease.

Kids can also pass the virus onto others (especially during this current phase of the pandemic). Achieving herd immunity to protect us as individuals and as a community requires the very large majority of people (kids are people!) to have immunity. Vaccine-acquired immunity is, by far, the safest way to gain immunity to COVID. The best way to protect your kids, yourself, and your community is through vaccination. 

When will SciMoms get our kids vaccinated?

As we wrote early in the pandemic (before any vaccines were authorized), the SciMoms will vaccinate our children as soon as the COVID vaccines are authorized for use in our kids’ age groups and the vaccines are available to us. We are confident that the processes for vaccine authorization and safety monitoring are working to ensure both safety and efficacy and this applies to COVID vaccines for kids.

We recognize that this post is about individual decisions to vaccinate when vaccines are available to you and does not address the issue of availability. In the face of inequitable vaccine availability and access around the world, we support efforts to ensure equitable production, availability, distribution, and accessibility of vaccines in all countries. Access to vaccines cannot be limited to the wealthy countries that produce them and we support plans that allow vaccination of all people of the world as quickly as possible (rather than 2023 as some analyses have suggested). Our hope is that every person in the world is in a position to ask the question: should I get my COVID vaccine today?

Other resources

Why Immunize Children?  — CDC

About Vaccines iVaccinate

Common Concerns  — Boost Oregon

How do I talk to kids about vaccines? Dear Pandemic