Teens and the Vaccines: a COVID Q&A

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By News Team on June 7, 2021

Now that the coronavirus vaccines are available for teens ages 12-15, many parents have questions. We posed the most common and concerning ones to Christopher Pierce, M.D., chief of general pediatrics at Carilion Clinic. See his answers in the video below, or skip to a particular question by clicking/tapping the time stamps. A Spanish-language version of the video with pediatric gastroenterologist Juan Olazagasti, M.D., is available on our YouTube channel.

Note that guidance from the CDC and Virginia Department of Health is constantly evolving. We will work to update it regularly, but be sure to visit CDC.gov for timely and regularly updated information. This video interview is from May 21, 2021.

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When will kids 12-15 be able to get the vaccine? (0:06)
Is this the same vaccine adults are receiving? (0:21)
Why should kids get vaccinated? (0:42)
How effective is the vaccine for this age group? (1:28)
Are there any unique side effects for this age group? (1:56)
Which vaccine do you recommend for teens? (2:22)
Where can my teen get the vaccine? (2:45)
When will kids under 12 be eligible? (3:16)
Are you recommending the vaccine to your patients? (3:40)

We asked Dr. Pierce and Dr. Olazagasti a few additional questions about dosage and other vaccines for children in this age group.

Q: Ages 12-15 is a period of significant growth and development. Will all vaccines for this age group be the same dose regardless of variances in size and weight? Can a smaller adolescent get too much to be safe, or a larger teen get too little to be effective?

A: Yes, at this point the dose is the same for all ages. This is not really different from other childhood vaccines where most of the time the dose given even to an infant is the same as that given to a school-aged child or even a teen. There is a certain "threshold" of antigen, the part of the vaccine which induces the immune response, that is needed to trigger the body's immune system to create immunity.  What all of this means is that it is safe for the smaller adolescent to receive the same dose. Similarly, a smaller dose may well not provide effective immunity.

Dr. Olazagasti added that adolescents are at risk (as well as adults) for the multi-systemic inflammatory complications that can arise six weeks after infection. 

Q: What other vaccines should adolescents and teens be getting from ages 12-15, and can they get them at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: This age group should receive several other vaccines if they have not already received them at 11 years of age.  They are due for Tdap for immunity for Tetanus ("Lock jaw"), Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Whooping cough).  In addition, they should receive their first dose of the quadrivalent meningitis vaccine against Meningococcal disease as well as receiving the HPV vaccine that protects against multiple cancers.  All of these vaccines can be given either with the COVID-19 vaccine or without any waiting period between any of these.

If you or your teen have any additional questions, visit CarilionClinic.org/covid-19-vaccine or speak with your child's pediatrician.

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