COVID-19 Update:Learn more about how we are protecting our patients, families and staff, as well as other important facts about COVID-19.
Coronavirus Vaccine FAQs
Which COVID-19 Vaccine is Best for Your Young Child?
Now that both the COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children 6 months and older, you may be wondering which vaccine to get for your child. Read more to learn the differences between the vaccines and learn which one is best for your child.
Last Updated: July 21, 2022
With several coronavirus vaccines available, you probably have some questions about what to expect when vaccinating your children. To help you, we’ve compiled some FAQs about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Children's National Hospital Vaccinations
Yes. Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Children’s National is administering the Pfizer vaccine depending on age/situation:
- Families can schedule a COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months and older in our primary care practices. The vaccine is also available during certain specialty care appointments and for hospitalized children when medically appropriate.
- There are several other safe and convenient options available to families seeking vaccines for their children. We encourage families to call their pediatrician or to use schools and retail drug stores like Walgreens or CVS. Also, consider public health distribution centers in the county or city you live in to obtain the vaccine for your child. Families can visit vaccines.gov to find a location to receive the vaccine.
No, one parent or guardian must be on-site to consent to their dependent child below the age of 18 getting the vaccine. Parental consent for dependent children is required at Children's National. Telephone or electronic consent is not permitted – the parent or guardian must be present at the vaccine appointment.
Yes, we are prioritizing children ages 6 months and up, but parents/caregivers and older siblings can also request vaccination from Children’s National Hospital. There also is ample supply of vaccines for adults in the community at public health facilities, retail drug stores (including the Walgreens pharmacy in the atrium of the hospital) and primary care doctors. Families are encouraged to find the most convenient and timely option for themselves and their children.
Make sure your child has eaten well and is hydrated prior to receiving the vaccine. The appointment itself should take only about 20 minutes. We encourage parents to discuss health concerns with their primary care physician prior to coming in for the vaccine. Questions about side effects, allergies and other topics are best answered by the child’s pediatrician.
We provide an official CDC-issued vaccination card with the first dose of vaccine. Please bring that card with you when your child receives their second dose. The card serves as the official documentation of the COVID-19 vaccination, so it is important not to misplace the card.
Take a picture of the card after each dose is given and register for digital vaccine documentation with your state health department to maintain back-up proof of vaccination.
Children's National Hospital cannot issue replacement vaccine cards. Please take a photo of the card as soon as you receive it. If you need to obtain documentation of the vaccine, please go to the health department of the state/city where you received the vaccine.
A booster shot refers to an extra dose of a vaccine after the original series of shots has been given. It can be given months or years later. This is common for many vaccines and is now also recommended for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine can wane after several months. The booster shot strengthens your immune response to the COVID-19 virus, increasing your protection against COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death.
- Pfizer booster:
- 5-17 years old: For individuals in the 5-17 age group, they are eligible for 1 booster at least 5 months after receiving their second dose of the vaccine.
- Moderna booster:
- 18 years and older: For individuals in this age group, they are eligible for 1 booster at least 3 months after their second dose.
- Johnson & Johnson booster:
- 18 years and older: People who received a J&J/Janssen shot should get a booster. Pfizer or Moderna must be used as the booster shot.
- 18 years and older: There is no authorized Novavax booster currently.
You can use CDC’s COVID-19 booster tool to learn if and when your child can get boosters to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines. Visit the CDC website to learn more about the COVID-19 booster shot.
We recommend following CDC guidelines about booster shots for immunocompromised children. Read more.
COVID Vaccines for Ages 6 Months and Up
Yes – children can receive routine vaccines at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine. Talk with your child’s pediatrician about the vaccines that your child needs and make a plan about how she or he will receive all needed vaccines.
The number of doses a child will get depends on which vaccine they receive. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna differ in dosage and number of shots. The number of Pfizer-BioNTech shots also depends on the child’s age.
- Infants & young children: Children 6 months – 4 years old will receive two (2) doses of the Moderna vaccine. Children ages 6 months to 4 years will receive three (3) doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
- Older children and teenagers:Children ages 5-17 who receive the Pfizer vaccine will get two (2) doses, 3-8 weeks apart. Children ages 6-17 will receive two (2) doses of Moderna in the primary series, given 4-8 weeks apart.
Both children and adults can have short-term side effects after the vaccine. The most common side effect is swelling and soreness at the site of the shot. Children and adults can also have fever, chills, headache, body ache, nausea, and tiredness. Infants and young children may be fussier than normal.
Use a cool wet washcloth at the site of the shot to help with the swelling and soreness. Even if the arm is sore, be sure to move it around. This will help the pain and swelling go away. Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed for fever or pain after the shot.
This is an individual decision, based on each child’s individual situation. In general, we would not recommend waiting very long, and to discuss any concerns with their trusted healthcare provider.
If your child has COVID-19, they should wait until they have recovered from the illness AND met the criteria to discontinue isolation before getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Patients who had MIS-C were not included in mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) COVID-19 vaccine trials in children. However, consensus among the healthcare field is that it is safe and beneficial for children with a history of MIS-C living in areas with high risk for exposure/transmission to receive the vaccine if they have clinically recovered (especially their heart function) and it's been at least 90 days since their diagnosis. If you have specific concerns about your child's individual history, we recommend reaching out to their doctor/specialist for best recommendations.
Pregnancy and the COVID-19 Vaccine
Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine all recommend pregnant people get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Because people who are pregnant or recently pregnant are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with people who are not pregnant, getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect from severe illness from COVID-19. Evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy has been growing and suggests that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy. Vaccination during pregnancy also builds antibodies that might protect the baby.
Yes. While your original vaccine continues to protect you against severe illness and death, it will wear off a bit over time. A booster shot provides extra protection against COVID-19 for you and your baby. You should discuss with your doctor when you should get a booster shot if you have already received your primary vaccination.
If you get pregnant after receiving your first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine that requires two doses (i.e., Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine), you should get your second shot to get as much protection as possible.
No. The COVID-19 vaccine does not cause miscarriage. Scientists have not found an increased risk for miscarriage among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine just before and during early pregnancy.
No. There is no evidence that any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccines, causes infertility or miscarriage.
Yes. Currently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) are both recommending that breastfeeding people get the vaccine to protect themselves and their families. Studies have shown the vaccine is safe and effective for this group.
Probably. While there is still limited research, it seems that getting vaccinated does produce antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 that can be in the breastmilk. This is good news because we know when a person secretes antibodies against other diseases in breastmilk, the breastfed baby is protected against those diseases by the antibodies (the official term for this is “passive immunity”). We are still doing the research to determine how much the antibodies against COVID-19 protect breastfed infants of vaccinated parents.
No. Here the research is clear — the COVID-19 vaccine will not give you (or your breastfed little one) COVID-19. The reason is that there are no actual COVID-19 virus particles in the vaccine. No virus means no infection.
General Vaccine Information
- 6 months through 4 years old: Children in this age group will receive 3 doses in the primary vaccine series. The first and second doses are separated by 3-8 weeks and the second and third doses are separated by at least 8 weeks.
- 5-17 years old: In this age group, individuals will receive 2 doses of the vaccine, 3-8 weeks apart.
- Booster shot: For individuals in the 5-17 age group, they are eligible for 1 booster at least 5 months after receiving their second dose of the vaccine.
- 6 months through 5 years old: Children in this age group will receive 2 doses of the vaccine, given 4-8 weeks apart.
- 6-17 years old: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization for Moderna for children ages 6-17 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will discuss recommendations on June 23, 2022.
- 18 years and older: In this age group, 2 doses will be given 4-8 weeks apart.
- Booster shot: For individuals in this age group, they are eligible for 1 booster at least 3 months after their second dose.
- Johnson & Johnson:
- 18 years and older: In this age group, 1 dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine will be given.
- Booster shot: People who received a J&J/Janssen shot should get a booster. Pfizer or Moderna must be used as the booster shot.
- 18 years and older: In this age group, 2 doses of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine will be given 3 weeks apart.
- Booster shot: There is no authorized Novavax booster currently.
Read more on the CDC website about available COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
- The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines cause predictable common side effects (fever, fatigue, muscle pain) that are seen as a result of the body creating an immune response to the vaccine. In very rare cases, there have been reports of severe allergic reactions, which is why we observe all patients for at least 15 minutes after vaccine administration. There have been no other serious safety concerns from their vaccines. All study participants have been followed for at least 2 months after getting vaccinated to look for side effects and will continue to be followed for 1-2 years in total.
- The CDC and FDA released guidance on April 13, 2021, recommending the temporary pause of the use of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine while they investigated several reports of a rare but severe side effect. On April 23, 2021, the CDC and FDA recommended that the use of Johnson & Johnson/Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine could resume in the United States, after a temporary pause.
Some people have expressed concerns that the Pfizer vaccine may have long-term side effects. Although it is always important to consider the risks and benefits of any medical choice we make, there is no vaccine that has caused late-onset side effects (beginning more than 2 months after receiving the vaccine). All vaccines are made to disintegrate safely in your body. Vaccines introduce a non-harmful ingredient that looks like the true virus or bacteria, allowing your body to build antibodies against the virus/bacteria without getting infected.
For the Pfizer vaccine, the non-harmful ingredient is mRNA. This acts like a recipe that our body uses to build protein. This protein is harmless but does look exactly like the protein on the outside of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), so our antibodies can be prepared if it sees the real virus. mRNA, however, is literally used up as it is read by the body. In fact, the end of the mRNA recipe has instructions to break down the mRNA and stop the production of the protein.
We recommend that parents monitor their children for symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath and fast or irregular heartbeat that may be consistent with myocarditis, and immediately report those symptoms to their doctor.
Follow regulations and requirements that are established by the state, local, and individual business regulations. In general, wearing a mask can help the wearer from breathing in the viruses that suspend in the air and lower the risk of having not only COVID-19 but also other types of respiratory viral infections such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus. View the most recent guidelines on the CDC webpage.
From what we know so far, people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 continue to have strong protection against moderate to severe COVID-19 illness, as well as hospitalization and death. However, some people may still be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus or develop mild COVID-19 illness.
Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
Yes, after the FDA issued the Emergency Use Authorization for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, we developed a plan to administer the vaccine to inpatients. Between April 1 and April 12, 2021, we administered 15 doses.
We suspended our use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine based on guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On April 23, 2021, the CDC and the FDA recommended that the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine could resume in the United States, after a temporary pause. We are currently only offering the Pfizer vaccine to individuals age 6 months-22.