Vaccinating Your Adolescent against COVID-19

Andrew Kung, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MSK Kids

Andrew Kung, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MSK Kids

On August 23, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty®). The FDA stated that the vaccine will continue to be authorized for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15. Andrew Kung, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MSK Kids, explains why Memorial Sloan Kettering is recommending that all patients 12 and older be vaccinated.

This information is about the COVID-19 vaccine for children age 12-17.

Read about the vaccine for children age 5-11 »

How can we be sure the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe for people so young?

Rigorous clinical trials involving 2,260 participants ages 12 to 15 found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. 

Just like adults, these adolescents received two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart.

The side effects were the same as those experienced in people ages 16 to 25 years old. They occurred mostly after the second dose and included pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and muscle and joint pain. These symptoms resolve in 1 to 2 days.

These are impressive and reassuring results. We are urging all our patients to be vaccinated because people with cancer are at greater risk for serious complications from COVID-19. Currently, there are no known risks for people with compromised immune systems to be vaccinated, as the vaccine does not contain a live virus.

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If my child is age 12 to 17 and an MSK patient, can they be vaccinated at MSK?

We are offering the Pfizer vaccine to the following MSK Kids patients ages 12 and older: 

  • inpatients
  • outpatients in active treatment, as well as those no longer in active treatment
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How can I make an appointment at MSK to get my 12- to 17-year-old vaccinated against COVID-19?

At this time, vaccine appointments for this age group cannot be made through the self-scheduling link on The appointment should only be made by calling your doctor’s office.

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Can my 12- to 17-year-old be vaccinated without a parent or guardian present?

No. One parent or guardian must be on-site to consent to their child getting the vaccine. A parent or guardian is not permitted to give consent over the phone or electronically. They must be present at the vaccine appointment.

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My child is a patient at MSK. Can I, as a caregiver, be vaccinated too? What about others in the family? 

At this time, MSK is not vaccinating caregivers or family members of patients. Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, we encourage family members of our patients to use the following websites to find a location with vaccine availability:

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I’ve heard about a severe immune response to COVID-19 in children called MIS-C, or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. Is it possible the vaccines could trigger a severe reaction in children?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a rare complication in children infected with COVID-19. The vaccines do not cause MIS-C, and by preventing COVID-19 infection, they actually prevent MIS-C.

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Additional Resources

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