COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A for Your School-age Child

Your school-age child may have questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. This Q&A provides information and suggested language developed by specialists in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy Department in partnership with CHOP’s Vaccine Education Center.

General questions

What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is a liquid placed inside your body to prepare for germs that can make you sick. Later, if you come into contact with those germs, your body is ready to protect you, so you don’t get as sick.

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine helps your body prepare for the virus that causes COVID-19. After you are vaccinated against COVID-19, your body will be ready to fight the virus, so you are less likely to get sick if you come into contact with it.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. All vaccines are carefully tested by scientists and doctors before they are given to kids or adults.

Why do some kids get the vaccine and others don’t?

Most people can get the COVID-19 vaccine, but some may not for many reasons. They may have a health condition that prevents them from getting the vaccine, or they may be too young to get the vaccine. Their family may have decided not to get the vaccine right now or at all. What’s important to remember is by getting vaccinated you are protecting yourself and helping protect others in your community. 

What to expect

How is getting the COVID-19 vaccine the same as getting another vaccine?

Most vaccines get into your body through a quick poke in your arm.

  • First, a healthcare worker will ask you and your caregiver a few questions, like your name and if you have any allergies. They may also ask which arm you want to get the vaccine in.
  • Then your arm will be cleaned with an alcohol pad. This might feel cold and wet.
  • Next, you’ll get the vaccine. It will probably feel like a quick poke or pinch.
  • Finally, the healthcare worker will place a Band-Aid or gauze on your arm.

How is getting the COVID-19 vaccine different than another vaccine?

After you get your COVID-19 vaccine, you will be asked to wait 15 to 30 minutes to make sure you do not have a reaction to the vaccine. If you have a reaction, the health care workers will be there to help. You can take a book or game to make the time pass faster.

To fully protect your body, the COVID-19 vaccine is given in two doses. You will return in a few weeks to get the second dose.

Why are so many different places offering the COVID-19 vaccine?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is new, so everyone needs to get vaccinated. Since so many vaccines need to be given, it is best to make them available at many different places. Some kids will get their COVID-19 vaccine in their doctor’s office, and some will get it in a pharmacy or a grocery store. Others may even get their vaccine in a school, church, community event or a special vaccine site. Your caregiver will figure out what location is best for you and your family.

Coping with vaccination

What are some things that will make my vaccination appointment easier?

  • Bring a few things to help you feel comfortable. A stuffed animal, a favorite book, headphones or a favorite toy might help.
  • Some kids find it helpful to know exactly what will happen during their vaccine visit, but others would rather focus on something else. If you would like to focus on something else, looking at a book, talking to someone, humming a favorite song or playing with an electronic device may help.
  • Taking a few slow, deep breaths can help your body feel more relaxed during your vaccine.
  • Another trick is to rub an alcohol pad on the wrist of the arm that is not getting the vaccine. Before the vaccine is given, blow on the area where the alcohol is. Some kids say they feel the cool temperature caused by blowing on the alcohol more than they feel the pinch of the needle.

Expected vaccine immune response

Can the COVID-19 vaccine give me the virus?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine does not cause the virus.

Will I feel sick after getting the vaccine?

After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, some people have a sore arm, feel tired or have a headache, but others don’t feel sick at all. Usually, these symptoms only last for a day or two. If you do feel sick, it means your body is responding to the vaccine. But even if you don’t feel sick, you can trust the vaccine is doing its job.

Does the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine feel the same as the second?

Some people have different symptoms after each dose. Even if you feel sick after the first dose, it is really important to get the second dose because your body needs both to protect you from COVID-19.

If I had COVID-19, do I still need the vaccine?

Yes. Even if you had COVID-19, you will be better protected from the virus if you get the vaccine. 

After the vaccine

Can vaccinated people still get sick with COVID-19?

Vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, but they don’t usually get very sick.

After I get the COVID-19 vaccine, do I still have to wear a mask?

Masks are still needed indoors because many people have not been vaccinated. Hopefully, once enough people get vaccinated, we won’t need our masks anymore. You might notice some families not wearing masks. If you feel frustrated or confused about this, be sure to tell a trusted adult how you are feeling.

Will I have to get a COVID-19 vaccine every year, like the flu shot?

Scientists are still studying the virus that causes COVID-19 and learning more about how well the COVID-19 vaccine is working. It is possible scientists and doctors will recommend additional COVID-19 vaccines in the future.

Learn more about Child Life at CHOP and get your COVID-19 vaccine questions answered at CHOP’s Vaccine Education Center.

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