Need to Know: COVID-19 Vaccine for Teens & Young Adults
The COVID-19 vaccine is available for adolescents ages 12-17. The Pfizer two-dose mRNA vaccine was approved for these ages based on strong evidence of its safety and effectiveness. Protection against COVID-19 for adolescents not only guards them against severe illness but helps them stay in school and other activities.
Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions. Contact your healthcare provider for thorough information about the COVID-19 vaccines for adolescents and young adults.
While most adolescents who contract COVID-19 have mild symptoms or have no symptoms, some become severely ill from COVID-19 infection. They may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe.
The vaccine can protect adolescents against long-term effects of COVID-19, which include:
- Long-term impact on vital organs like the lungs, heart and kidneys as well as the nervous system
- Symptoms that last up to 3 months, which 33% of people who’ve had COVID-19 experience
- Serious risk of neurological or mental health conditions, which happens to 1 in 3 people who’ve had COVID-19
Plus, vaccinated teens may return to most regular activities safely and have less need to quarantine if they’re exposed to COVID-19 and develop no symptoms. The disruptions to normal life COVID-19 have caused can affect adolescent mental health, and the more protected adolescents are and feel they are, the less they may suffer. For guidance on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on adolescents, the CDC has a parental resource kit here.
COVID-19 vaccines can help keep adolescents from getting seriously sick from COVID-19. It can also help protect family members, including siblings who may not be eligible for vaccination and family members who may be at increased risk of getting very sick if they are infected.
Additionally, vaccines are the best defense against variants of the virus, some of which may be easier to spread or cause worse illness.
There are minor, temporary side effects from the vaccine, though many people don’t experience any. The most common side reported after COVID-19 vaccine are:
- Pain, swelling or redness at the injection site
- Muscle or joint pain
- Low fever
Side effects may be more common after the second dose of a 2-dose mRNA vaccine like Pfizer’s.
In rare cases, some young people have experienced myocarditis/pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) following COVID-19 mRNA (Pfizer, Moderna) vaccination. These occur most often in males and are typically mild and not life-threatening. Myocarditis is being reported at a rate of 9.1 cases amongst females and 66.7 cases per one million doses administered amongst males after second dose mRNA vaccination in those between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. Myocarditis has also been reported after COVID-19 infection. Rates of myocarditis after a third dose is likely lower than what is seen after second doses.
Overall, the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 far outweigh the risks. Almost all hospitalizations and deaths in recent months have happened to people who weren’t vaccinated.
Vaccines may be administered at:
- Family practices
- Pediatric clinics
- Local public health departments
Availability and locations will be specific to where you live. Visit Vaccines.gov to find a location near you or call the North Dakota Department of Health Hotline at 1.866.207.2880 for help.
COVID-19 vaccines are free. However, healthcare providers may charge a fee for giving the shot. If you have questions about costs, contact your healthcare provider. Such fees will be covered by your health insurance. If you do not have insurance and can’t pay the fee, you can’t be refused the vaccine.
Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19
The CDC and other experts recommend parents protect adolescents from serious COVID-19 illness and long-term, life-altering effects of the disease by getting vaccinated. Read the CDC’s recommendations here. The vaccine will also help avoid hospitalization or death from COVID-19. And, the vaccine lets adolescents get back to normal activities with fewer risks and fewer worries.
Keep Up Safety Measures
Adolescents should continue to follow CDC safety guidelines even after being vaccinated, including:
- Wearing a mask whenever outside the home
- Practice social distancing at least six feet from others outside the home
- Frequent handwashing and good hygiene
- Covering coughs or sneezes
- Disinfecting surfaces or objects touched frequently, especially in school
Parents can learn more about what to expect of COVID-19 in schools here. Schools may have their own guidelines based on local or state mandates. Additionally, you can learn more about the latest CDC recommendations for testing and isolation here. Try to help contract tracers by providing requested information after reporting a positive COVID-19 case.