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What side effects might my child have after a COVID-19 vaccine?

Hina J. Talib, MD, FAAP

Answer

​​The COVID-19 vaccines that are approved for use in children and teens are safe. There are some mild or moderate short-term side effects that your child may experience. These are very similar to the ones that adults experience from the COVID-19 vaccine.


In the clinical trials, some children and adolescents had no side effects and, like adults, more children and adolescents had short-term side effects after the second dose of the vaccine compared to after their first dose. It is important to note that children 5-11 years old had short-term side effects less often than older adolescents and adults.

Short-term side effects that your child may feel:

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Muscle pain

  • Chills

  • Joint pain

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Pain at the injection site (sore arm)

These symptoms usually go away in a day or so on their own. But you can ask your pediatrician about ways to help your child feel better.

What about serious side effects?

It is rare, but some people have had a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. That's why your child will need to wait for 15 to 30 minutes after they have a vaccination. There are medicines to quickly treat allergic reactions.

If you think your child might be having a severe allergic reaction after you leave the appointment, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.

When the vaccine was being studied, a small number of children had lymph node swelling. Local skin reactions also occurred.

The other very, very rare side effect is myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle. Having COVID-19 disease also can lead to this type of heart inflammation. COVID-19 infection is much more likely to cause myocarditis in children, especially children who develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome​, than the vaccine.

As for long-term side effects from the v​accine, the CDC says this is unlikely. We have years of research and monitoring on other vaccinations that show side effects almost always happen within six weeks of getting a vaccine.

Remember

COVID-19 illness was one of the top 10 causes of death for kids 5 to 11 years old this past year. Thousands of children also have needed care in the hospital. And even children who have no symptoms from COVID-19 illness can—and have—developed lasting symptoms weeks to months after they recover, known as long-haul COVID.

The COVID-19 virus is still spreading, and its course has not always been predictable. Getting the vaccine for your child and teen is safe and can stop the spread of the virus and protect your family from COVID-19.

So mark your calendar. It's time to get ready for your child's appointment day!

More information

Hina J. Talib, MD, FAAP

Hina J. Talib, MD, FAAP, is a member of the AAP Section on Adolescent Health and Council on Communications and Media and a spokesperson with the AAP. An adolescent medicine specialist practicing at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, she is the director of the Adolescent Medicine fellowship training program. She also is an associate professor of pediatrics and obstetrics & gynecology and women's health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Read more of her work at drhinatalib.com
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Last Updated
11/5/2021
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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