Getting a COVID-19 vaccine should protect your child from getting seriously ill with COVID-19.
We particularly recommend that they get vaccinated if they:
- have a health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19
- live with someone who is at higher risk of COVID-19
Getting your child vaccinated is a decision between you and your child. Read advice on this page to help you decide.
Benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines should protect your child from getting seriously ill from COVID-19 if they are at higher risk from COVID-19.
It may also protect healthy 5 to 15 year old children from:
- COVID-19 illness which can be severe in very rare cases
- paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS or MIS-C) from COVID-19
- the risk of developing ‘long COVID' symptoms, such as fatigue, which can continue for weeks or months
- spreading COVID-19 to others
Children who are vaccinated will be less likely to miss school and other activities because of being ill with COVID-19.
How to get your child a COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccination is available to children aged 5 to 15 to give them protection against serious COVID-19 illness.
COVID-19 and children
Most children who get COVID-19 have very mild symptoms or no symptoms.
But children who get COVID-19 need to isolate from other people even if their symptoms are mild. This is to stop the spread of the virus.
Serious illness is rare
It is rare that COVID-19 causes serious illness, hospitalisation or death in children.
Sometimes, symptoms connected to COVID-19 can continue for some weeks or months. This is called ‘long COVID’. The risk of this condition is lower in children compared to adults.
The risk of a child being hospitalised because of COVID-19 is low, and the risk of any child needing intensive care treatment is extremely low.
Children with certain health conditions are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. They are more likely to have to go to hospital with COVID-19.
Rarely, COVID-19 can cause a condition called paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS). This is also known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). 75% of the children who develop PIMS have no underlying health condition.
The condition causes pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, and difficulty breathing.
Most children with PIMS recover after time in hospital or intensive care but some children have lasting side effects and a very small number can die.
Your child will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. It is given as an injection into the upper arm.
Children aged 5 to 11 will be offered a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine with a smaller dose. The immunity they get will be similar to the higher dose vaccine used in older age groups.
Clinical trials showed that this vaccine was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in children.
This vaccine has already been given to millions of children aged 5 to 15 years old in the USA, Canada, and Israel and is recommended in other European countries.
Thousands of people worldwide have been vaccinated as part of clinical trials. No new safety concerns were reported in children aged 5 to 15 after these trials.
Children who should not get a COVID-19 vaccine
Most children aged 5 to 15 will be able to safely get the vaccine.
But the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine is not recommended if your child had:
- a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in either of these vaccines, including polyethylene glycol or PEG
- a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
The smaller dose Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 is not recommended if your child had:
- a severe allergic reaction to Trometamol (one of the contents in contrast dye used in MRI radiological studies). Trometamol is only found in this vaccine.
Talk to your child’s doctor before getting the vaccine if your child has had:
- a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in the past, including to any other vaccine or medication
- had myocarditis or pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) after a previous dose of any COVID-19 vaccine
If your child aged 5 to 11 had PIMS or MIS-C
If your child aged 5 to 11 has had paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS), they can get the COVID-19 vaccine. This is also known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
They should wait until they have recovered and at least 90 days after they were diagnosed.
Side effects in children
Vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild or moderate in children and do not last long. Side effects can include a sore arm, fever or tiredness.
Myocarditis and pericarditis
Very rarely, people may develop myocarditis and pericarditis after getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Myocarditis and pericarditis are inflammatory heart conditions. The risk of these very rare conditions is higher in younger men.
These conditions are more likely to occur after the second dose and mostly happen within 14 days of getting the vaccine.
2 European studies have estimated the risk of myocarditis, after the second dose of the vaccine:
- 1 additional case for every 38,000 males aged 12 to 29 (within 7 days)
- 1 additional case for every 17,500 males aged 16 to 24 (within 28 days)
The risk of these side effects appears to be lower after the first booster.
Early data from other countries shows myocarditis is less likely in those aged 12 to 15 than those aged 16 to 24. Myocarditis in children aged 5 to 11 year is very rare.
You should know the signs to look out for in your child after vaccination.
Symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis
Get medical help if your child gets any of these symptoms after their vaccine:
- palpitations (a forceful heartbeat that may be irregular)
- chest pain
Most people recover from myocarditis and pericarditis on their own but they may need treatment in hospital. We don’t yet know if there are any long-term problems because of these side effects.
If your child is getting other vaccines
Children can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a different vaccine at the same time or at any interval. If they are getting 2 vaccines around the same time, it’s best to get vaccinated in different arms. This is to reduce the chance of having a sore arm after vaccination.
As a precaution if your child has recently had the monkeypox vaccine (Imvanex or Jynneos), wait 4 weeks before they get their COVID-19 vaccine. This is because of the unknown risk of myocarditis.
If you decide not to get your child vaccinated
You may decide to wait until more information is available about COVID-19 vaccines in children before deciding to get a vaccine.
If you decide not to get your child vaccinated, there is a greater risk they could get COVID-19. Their symptoms will most likely be mild if they get the virus, but they will still need to isolate from others. This means they may miss school and other activities.
You will need to take extra care to protect your child against COVID-19.
Different views among parents or guardians
Children aged 15 or younger will need the consent of one parent or legal guardian to get vaccinated.
If parents or joint guardians do not agree about getting your child vaccinated, you should discuss and try to resolve this between yourselves before registering your child.
You can also talk to your child’s GP about any concerns you may have about COVID-19 vaccines. Talk to your child about vaccination as their opinion is important also.
If a vaccinator, including your GP or pharmacist, is notified that one parent or guardian does not consent to the child being vaccinated, the vaccine should not be given.
This content was fact checked by vaccine experts working in Ireland.