Preteens & Teens

As your children become preteens, some vaccines they received as infants and young children begin to wear off and they need a “booster dose.” Other vaccines are recommended for children starting at ages 11 or 12 to keep them healthy into adulthood. Preteens and teens are at increased risk of getting certain vaccine-preventable diseases as they engage in common activities such as sharing drinks and utensils, kissing, attending summer camps, and later, college.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Preteens and Teens?

Missed well-care and vaccination visits can leave your children unprotected from dangerous diseases. Preteens and teens do not have as many regular visits with healthcare providers and may miss critical vaccines that can protect them. Check out our new Don’t Skip campaign that talks about the importance of routine vaccines and catching up on any vaccinations your family may have missed during the pandemic.

Talk to your children’s healthcare provider to make sure they are up-to-date on all of their recommended vaccines including flu, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough), meningitis (MenACWY and MenB)  HPV and COVID-19.

Why Follow the Recommended Vaccination Schedule?

The CDC develops the U.S. immunization schedules for children, teens and adults based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The CDC’s recommended immunization schedule is the ONLY vaccination schedule in the U.S. that is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. This schedule is also endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The vaccines recommended in the schedule are carefully timed to provide protection to children and teens when they are most vulnerable to diseases, and when the vaccines will produce the strongest response from their immune systems. That’s why it is so important to follow the schedule as closely as possible.

Commonly Asked Questions About Vaccines for Preteens & Teens

It is understandable that this may be a hard decision for parents, but public health and medical experts agree that children 12 years and older need protection from COVID-19 both for their health and the health of their family and friends. The very contagious Delta variant and more in-person activities mean that COVID is still spreading around the country (and the world), and kids are still getting sick.

  • While children and teens may not be as likely to get severely ill or hospitalized from COVID-19, it can still happen. In rare cases, children have even died from COVID.
  • Preteens and teens between 12–17 years of age ARE AT RISK of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
  • If your children get infected with COVID-19, they might also get “long COVID”, also known as “chronic COVID”.
    • Even if they had few or no symptoms, people can develop a number of other conditions after the COVID infection. Some are minor and may go away on their own. Others are more serious and may need treatment. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, talk with your child’s doctor about watching for lingering or new symptoms, and what to do if you notice any of these symptoms.
  • Children who get COVID also have a chance of getting a rare, but serious medical condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Unfortunately, the link between COVID-19 and MIS-C is not well understood, and experts are trying to learn if some children are more at risk. But they do know that adolescents have had more severe cases of MIS-C than younger children. Learn more about MIS-C from the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • Children, preteens and teens spread the virus that causes COVID-19 in households, schools and communities, and may infect people who are very vulnerable to severe COVID illness, such as older adults; pregnant people; people with cancer, a history of cancer and/or those going through cancer treatment; people with chronic kidney disease and/or those going through dialysis; people with diabetes; people with heart or liver conditions; and others. (Learn more)

COVID-19 Vaccines for Preteens & Teens

If you have a preteen or teen (12 years and up), they are recommended to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

  • The Pfizer vaccine requires 2 doses given 3 weeks apart. For the best protection against COVID, it is important for your child to get both doses.
  • It takes the body a while to build immunity after getting vaccinated. Your child is considered “fully vaccinated” 2 weeks after getting their 2nd shot of COVID vaccine.

At this time, there are no COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in children  under 12 years old in the U.S.

Stay tuned, a CDC recommendation for children 5-11 is coming soon.

Real-World Use of the COVID-19 Vaccine in Preteens and Teens

A CDC study published on October 19, 2021 showed that 2 doses of Pfizer vaccine provided a high level of protection against COVID-19 hospitalization among children aged 12–18 years. This evaluation demonstrated that nearly all (97%) people 12–18 years hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated (versus fully vaccinated). This study highlights the importance of COVID-19 vaccination for children between 12 and 18 years old to protect them against severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalization due to COVID.

Click to view larger

Find a COVID-19 Vaccine for Your Preteen/Teen
  • Check with your child’s healthcare provider about whether provide COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Check your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination walk-ins or appointments are available.
  • Contact your state or local health department for more information.
  • Check vaccines.gov or text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find a COVID vaccine near you.
More Information
COVID-19 Vaccine Safety

While COVID-19 vaccines were developed faster than other vaccines, safety was (and still is) a top priority. Due to the pandemic, steps to develop the vaccines were streamlined or overlapped. None of them are being skipped. 

Before being authorized for use by FDA, each COVID-19 vaccine was tested through three phases of clinical trials and the data was carefully reviewed by the FDA and their advisory committee (VRBPAC), and the CDC and their advisory committee (ACIP). In clinical trials, the Pfizer COVID vaccine – recommended for people 12 years and older – was shown to be safe and effective. The FDA and CDC agree that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risks.

According to CDC, “these vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.” After being authorized for use, COVID vaccines continue to be monitored for safety using both established systems like VAERS and new safety monitoring systems like V-Safe.

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety for Kids 12-18 Years Old
  • There were teens between 16 and 18 years old included in the Pfizer COVID vaccine clinical trials and the results of the clinical trials were given to FDA and CDC in December 2020.
    • Based on the data, at that time, the FDA authorized the vaccine and the CDC recommended it for use in people 16 years and older.
    • No vaccine safety concerns have been identified for teens 16-18 y.o.
  • There were 2,000 children in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial to test the vaccine in children 12 through 15 years old.
    • The trial showed that the Pfizer COVID vaccine was 100% effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms.
    • Children’s immune systems responded to the COVID vaccine in a way similar to those of older teens and young adults.
    • No safety concerns were identified in the clinical trials.
    • Based on the data, at that time, the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine and the CDC recommended it for use in people 12 years and older.
What about Long-Term Side Effects?

The CDC says that it is unlikely for people to get long-term side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. There are years of research and vaccine safety monitoring on other vaccines that show side effects almost always happen within six weeks of getting a vaccine. For this reason, the FDA required each of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines to be studied for at least two months after the final dose.

More Info

There have been reports of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. (Both Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are mRNA vaccines). Most of these reported cases have happened in young men under 30 years old, and after the second dose of the COVID vaccine compared to the first.

While these heart issues might sound very scary, myocarditis and pericarditis can be mild and treatable. In fact, of those who developed the heart conditions after getting vaccinated, most have made a full recovery.

What exactly are myocarditis and pericarditis? 
  • Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle.
  • Pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.

Symptoms of both these heart conditions may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heartbeat seems faster or slower than it should be, or is beating in an unusual pattern

If you or a family member start to feel any of the symptoms listed above, please contact your healthcare provider right away.  Make sure to let them know if you’ve had the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine within the last week or so.

What is Being Done to Make Sure the mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine is Safe?

Health experts are taking the reports of myocarditis and pericarditis very seriously. Based on the latest data:

  • Myocarditis and pericarditis are RARE side effects after mRNA COVID vaccines. 
    • According to CDC, more than 7 million preteens/teens between 12 and 15 years old are fully vaccinated.
  • The reports of myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination were seen:
      • Mostly in males between 12 and 29 years old
      • More often after getting the second dose of a mRNA COVID vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna)
      • Typically within a week after a dose of a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna)
  • Most patients who received care responded well to medicine and rest and have recovered.
  • The risk of myocarditis or pericarditis after getting a mRNA COVID vaccine is lower than the risk of myocarditis associated with COVID-19 infection in adolescents and adults. (Learn more here.)

click to view larger

The CDC and its group of medical experts concluded that the benefits of COVID vaccination continue to outweigh the risks. The COVID-19 vaccine continues to be recommended for anyone 12 years of age and older.

In the American Academy of Pediatrics’ AAP News, Dr. Stuart Berger, chair of the AAP Section on Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Executive Committee, said “in general, myocarditis is rare. Patients can be asymptomatic and often recover quickly. Most commonly, mild inflammation is related to a viral infection. This includes SARS-CoV-2 and the related multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.”

More Information about COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has a COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical (VaST) Work Group that reviews the vaccine safety data from the U.S. vaccine monitoring systems on a weekly basis. They are looking for any unexpected health problems that are reported after COVID-19 vaccination, and will continue to make certain that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risks.

Additional Resources

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause myocarditis? (American Academy of Pediatrics)

If you have a preteen or teen (12 years old or older), they are recommended to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

  • The Pfizer vaccine requires 2 doses given 3 weeks (21 days) apart. For the best protection against COVID, it is important for your child to get BOTH doses.
  • It takes the body a while to build immunity after getting vaccinated. Your child is considered “fully vaccinated” 2 weeks after getting their 2nd shot of COVID vaccine.
More Information
Prepare for Yourself and Your Preteen or Teen for their COVID Vaccination Appointment
  • Talk to your child before the visit about what to expect during their vaccine appointment.
  • Like with adults, tell the vaccine provider if your child has any allergies to any ingredient in the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • Sometimes people, especially teens, faint when they get a shot. To prevent fainting and injuries related to fainting, your child should be seated or lying down during vaccination and for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given.
  • Like with adults, after your child’s COVID-19 vaccination, they will be asked to stay for 15–30 minutes so they can be monitored just in case they have a severe allergic reaction and need immediate treatment. (Severe allergic reactions are not common).
  • Ask the vaccine provider about registering your child for V-SAFE after they get their shot. V-SAFE is CDC’s free, smartphone tool that uses text messaging to check in with you/your child after they get their COVID shot. (Parents can register and respond to V-SAFE text messages for their children.) If your child recently got their COVID vaccine, but haven’t already registered for V-SAFE, click here to register.
  • After your child gets their first dose, you will get an immunization card with the name of the vaccine received and the date of the first shot. Hold on to this card and bring it with you when you go for your child’s second COVID shot three weeks later. After the second dose, the name of the vaccine and the date of the 2nd shot will be added. Make sure to keep this immunization card and send a copy of it to your child’s doctor.
Side Effects

While the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks of getting vaccinated, it is possible that your child MAY have some mild or moderate side effects after getting the first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. This is normal and is a sign that your child’s body is building protection (immunity) against COVID. (Some people have no side effects after getting vaccinated.)

While these mild or moderate side effects may affect your child’s ability to do their normal daily activities, they are temporary and should go away on their own.

These side effects usually start within a day or two of getting the shot and should go away in a few days.

  • Pain, redness or swelling on the arm where they got the shot
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Swollen lymph nodes on side of body where they got the shot (not as common as the side effects listed above)

Contact your child’s healthcare provider if the redness or tenderness where the shot was given gets worse after 24 hours or if the side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.

What if My Child Has Pain or Discomfort After the COVID-19 Shot?

Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about giving your child over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), aspirin, or antihistamines (Benadryl), for any pain and discomfort after getting vaccinated. They can take these medications to relieve side effects if they have no other medical reasons that prevent them from taking these medications normally.

It is not recommended to give your child these medicines before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent side effects.

The CDC says that it is unlikely for people to get long-term side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. There are years of research and vaccine safety monitoring on other vaccines that show side effects almost always happen within six weeks of getting a vaccine.

More Information
To Find a COVID-19 Vaccine for Your Preteen/Teen:
  • Check with your child’s healthcare provider about whether they will offer COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Check your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination walk-ins or appointments are available.
  • Contact your state or local health department for more information.
  • Check vaccines.gov to find COVID-19 vaccine appointments
More Information

Yes. The CDC says that it is OK for your preteen and teen (12 years old or older) to get their routine vaccines at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ask your healthcare provider what vaccines your preteen & teen needs or see the recommended vaccine schedule on this page.

It depends on which state you live in.

Learn more about this issue in an episode of PBS’ Above the Noise with host Myles Bess. In this video, Myles investigates the trend of teens wanting to get vaccinated without parental consent, in addition to the history of vaccines and the movement against them. He also speaks with Kelly Danielpour, a high school senior who founded VaxTeen – an organization that provides resources for teens to learn more. Watch now.

More Info

Vaccines approved for use in the United States are required to go through three phases of clinical trials and years of extensive safety testing before they are approved (or authorized) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

After approval or authorization, each vaccine continues to be continuously monitored for any safety by CDC and FDA . This monitoring looks for any rare or new problems that may happen after vaccination.

In the U.S., there are four different vaccine safety surveillance systems in place to watch routine vaccines AFTER they are approved by FDA and recommended for use by CDC.

Any serious safety problems found with these vaccines will be reported to health officials, healthcare providers, and the public.

What about the Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines?

While COVID-19 vaccines were developed faster than other vaccines, safety was (and still is) a top priority.

Before being authorized for use by FDA:

  • Each COVID-19 vaccine was tested through three phases of clinical trials.
    • To test the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in kids between 12 and 15 years old, there was a clinical trial with more than 2,000 children in this age group.
      • Among the 1,000 adolescents who got the COVID-19 vaccine, there were no cases of COVID-19.  The vaccine was shown to be 100% effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms. In the kids that didn’t get the vaccine, 16 of them got COVID.
      • Children’s immune systems responded to the COVID vaccine in a way similar to those of older teens and young adults.
      • No safety concerns were identified in the clinical trials.
  • After the clinical trials, the data was carefully reviewed by the FDA and their advisory committee (VRBPAC), and the CDC and their advisory committee (ACIP). The FDA and CDC agree that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risks of the vaccines.

Since they were authorized for emergency use by the FDA:

  • Millions of people in the U.S. have received COVID-19 vaccines.
  • COVID vaccines continue to be monitored for safety using both established systems like VAERS and new safety monitoring systems like V-Safe. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and how they monitored for safety on our COVID Vaccine Q&A page.
  • According to CDC, “these vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. “

Learn More

Yes, the HPV vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing HPV. Before the three HPV vaccines were licensed for use in the U.S. by the FDA, each went through years of testing in thousands of people through clinical trials to make sure they were safe. After being licensed, the the CDC and FDA continued to monitor the safety of the HPV vaccines through the four post-licensure vaccine safety surveillance systems in the U.S. to look for rare or new problems that may happen after vaccination. Since HPV vaccine became available in 2006, there have been many large safety studies conducted in the U.S. and other countries, and over 100 million doses of HPV vaccines were distributed in the United States. HPV vaccines have continued to have good safety records, and careful safety monitoring has not shown any problems. No deaths have been shown to be caused by HPV vaccinations.

Of course, vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Many people who get the HPV vaccine have no side effects at all, while others report having very mild side effects, like a sore arm from the shot. The most common side effects of HPV vaccine include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Headache or feeling tired
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain

There have been some reports of fainting after HPV vaccination, which is not usual. Sometimes people, especially teens, faint after they get shots. To make sure your child doesn’t get injured if they fall from fainting, your healthcare provider might ask your child to stay seated after getting the vaccine to help protect him/her.

No, there is no evidence that HPV vaccination causes fertility or reproductive problems. In fact, getting HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer, can help ensure a woman’s ability to get pregnant and have healthy babies.

For example, a woman who develops cervical cancer later in life due to HPV infection may require serious treatments that could leave her unable to have children. It’s also possible that treatment for cervical pre-cancer could put a woman at risk for problems with her cervix, which could cause preterm delivery or other problems. HPV vaccination can help prevent these complications.

There have actually been scientific studies that have looked at this issue, and they show that there is no correlation between receiving the HPV vaccine and increased rates of, or earlier engagement in, sexual activity.

Like all vaccines, we want to give HPV vaccine earlier rather than later – before your child is exposed to HPV. Preteens should receive all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine series long before they begin any type of sexual activity. Even if your child delays sexual activity until marriage, or only has one partner in the future, he or she could still be exposed to HPV if his/her partner has been exposed to HPV. Studies have shown that the HPV vaccine is most e­ffective in preventing the virus, and therefore, HPV-related cancers, when given at age 11 or 12.

There are two types of meningococcal vaccines available in the United States. Each type helps protect your child against different serogroups (strains) of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) is routinely recommended for preteens and teens to protect against four serogroups (A, C, W, and Y).

Serogroup (B) meningococcal vaccine (MenB) protects against serogroup B and is available for adolescents and young adults 16 through 23 years old. Currently, there is not a meningococcal vaccine that offers protection against all common serogroups in one shot.

Ask your child’s doctor about BOTH meningococcal vaccinations (MenACWY and MenB).

Learn more.