Young teens can get the COVID vaccine. Here’s what you need to know


COVID vaccines are now available to everyone 12 and older.

On Wednesday, the CDC signed off on the FDA’s emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 12 to 15 years old, and some of them are wasting no time.

12-year-old Brady was one of the first in line to get his shot at the Long Beach Convention Center on Thursday morning. “I’m definitely excited to go to movie theaters again, start hanging out with friends, and do more activities like going to theme parks.”

He says he’s the envy of many of his friends, who aren’t old enough yet to get the vaccine.

“I got really excited as soon as my dad broke the news that I could go get the shot,” says 12-year-old Vander, who is getting his dose this week. “It's important to me because to have complete confidence in immunity is almost like a superpower. You’re good. Everyone’s been worrying about this and understandably so, so to have this vaccine takes away all those worries.”

Vander says he’s most excited to return to ‘normal’ school and go on trips with his family again. Photo courtesy of Joel Delman.

Penelope’s parents are also getting her vaccinated as soon as possible. She says it’s worth it, but she’s also apprehensive: “I want to take it because I want to be able to go back to school, but I don't like needles,” she says. “Like, I really don’t like needles. And it’s two needles. So I'm really nervous about that part but I have to take it. It’s short term pain for long term happiness.”

Vander’s family wants him to be fully vaccinated before he heads off to summer camp. Penelope’s mom, Valerie Krause, says her vaccination is good news for family plans.

“The Dodgers have a special seating area for vaccinated people,” she says. “When [Penelope] gets vaccinated we’re going to rock those seats.”

Penelope says she’s looking forward to seeing her grandparents in Virginia after she’s fully vaccinated. Photo by Valerie Krause.

Vander and Penelope’s parents say most of the people they know are getting their teenagers vaccinated, too. But they all know someone who’s worried about how quickly the FDA approved the vaccine, or aren’t as concerned about vaccinating their kids, since young people are less likely to get severe symptoms or die from the disease.

Pediatrician and infectious disease specialist Dr. Ernie Guzman says the speed of approval doesn't mean the vaccine is any less safe. “Everything that was done to study this vaccine is identical in time and breadth and depth as any of the other vaccines that we use routinely today,” he says. “The science part was the same, the paperwork part was pushed together and that makes this vaccine as safe as any of the other vaccines we’ve studied.”

Dr. Pia Pannaraj, another infectious disease specialist, says even if kids are less likely to get sick, they’re far from immune. Plus, they’re frequently asymptomatic, and can unknowingly pass the disease on to people who are at a higher risk of hospitalization or death.

Dr. Pia Pannaraj says kids are more likely to experience the same side effects that younger adults have reported after getting the vaccine. Photo courtesy of Pia Pannaraj.

She says the trial for 12-15 year olds took just as long as the one for people 16 and older. “Over 90, 95% of adverse events occur in the first 6-8 weeks and so we’ve already reached that period for all of the vaccines in the adults and in this 12-15 year old cohort. Once they continue the long term follow-ups, then they will apply for full FDA approval.”

The trials revealed that the same dosage of the same vaccine was just as effective in kids as young as 12, so they’re getting the same shot as the adults.

Pfizer continues to lead the charge on these younger age groups. They say they expect to see the data for kids as young as 5 by the end of summer, with an emergency approval expected by the fall.