COVID-19 vaccines for children and teenagers

Group of children wearing face masks outdoors

COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for people aged six months and over. In children and teenagers, the vaccine is now only recommended if they already have certain other medical conditions.

COVID-19 vaccines cause the to make antibodies and special cells (like T cells) that target a foreign protein on the surface of the coronavirus. If the vaccinated person later comes into contact with the coronavirus, their quickly recognizes and fights it.

Some children and teenagers have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Many have also had the disease and recovered from it. Children and teenagers rarely have severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Which vaccines are available for children and teenagers?

Table: List of approved COVID-19 vaccines (in Germany)
Name of vaccine Age group (according to approval) Type of vaccine Manufacturer
Comirnaty from 6 months mRNA vaccine Biontech/Pfizer
Spikevax from 6 months mRNA vaccine Moderna Biotech
Nuvaxovid from 12 years Protein-based vaccine Novavax

How do the vaccines differ?

The vaccines differ in their ingredients and how they activate the immune system:

  • mRNA vaccines: mRNA vaccines contain the “blueprint” (copy of a gene) for a protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This blueprint in the vaccine enters the body’s cells in tiny fat particles (lipid nanoparticles). The cells then make that typical coronavirus protein (spike protein) for a short time. The reacts to the protein, making antibodies and special cells to fight it. The blueprint is then broken down in the cells.
  • Protein-based vaccine: The protein-based vaccines contain coronavirus-like particles with the typical spike protein on them. The spike protein in these vaccines is made in a lab and injected directly.

The Comirnaty and Spikevax vaccines have been adapted to provide more protection specifically against the omicron variant of the .

What are the advantages of COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccines can reduce the risk of catching the and becoming ill. But this protection against an with symptoms is limited, and hardly there anymore after a few months. Then you may get infected with the and have symptoms despite being vaccinated (known as a “breakthrough ”). Most children and teenagers then have symptoms like a cough or sore throat.

Children only very rarely develop severe COVID-19. The vaccine can probably further reduce that risk, especially for children who already have certain other medical conditions.

Similar to when you're vaccinated, when you recover from a COVID-19 the makes immune cells that can protect you from getting COVID-19 again and prevent severe illness if you do.

What are the possible side effects?

It is normal for vaccinations to have certain side effects. That can be a sign that your body is reacting to the vaccine and starting to build immunity (protection).

Depending on the vaccine, the following reactions occur in 70 to 90% of vaccinated children and teenagers:

  • Reactions where the needle went in, including pain, reddening or swelling
  • Physical symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, aching muscles and joint pain

Young children (up to about three years old) are often restless after having a vaccine. It is quite common for them to cry more, eat less and sleep worse. These reactions to a vaccine are usually mild and go away again within a few days.

What are the possible complications of vaccination?

All vaccines can cause an immediate allergic response (anaphylactic reaction) that usually has no lasting effects. That is very rare, though, occurring in fewer than 1 in 100,000 vaccinations.

In some children and teenagers, the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis may be higher in the first few days after an mRNA vaccine (Spikevax or Comirnaty). Myocarditis is an of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is an of the lining around the heart. This side effect mainly affects male teenagers and young men after having the second dose of the vaccine. According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), it occurs in up to 1 out of 10,000 people who are vaccinated with Comirnaty. The risk is slightly higher with Spikevax (up to 2 out of 10,000 people), so Spikevax is no longer recommended for people aged between 12 and 30.

It is important to see a doctor soon if the following symptoms occur in the first few weeks after vaccination:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual racing heart or palpitations

Most children and teenagers recover from myocarditis or pericarditis – but there may be lasting damage.

The safety of the vaccines is monitored by international authorities. In Germany, the Paul Ehrlich Institute publishes safety reports on vaccines.

Please note that some of the following information describes the situation in Germany specifically. You may find that things are different elsewhere.

What are the recommendations for children and teenagers?

COVID-19 vaccines (the initial set and boosters) are no longer recommended for healthy children and teenagers.

The German Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) now recommends that children and teenagers should only have boosters if they are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19 due to other medical conditions – including chronic lung or heart diseases, diabetes, Down syndrome or a weakened .

It is best to have yearly booster shots in the autumn because the rates are highest in the autumn and winter. They should be given 12 months after the last .

Why are COVID-19 vaccines no longer generally recommended for children and teenagers?

According to the STIKO, this decision was based on the fact that most children and teenagers only have mild symptoms nowadays, or no symptoms at all. But the STIKO also has no concerns about the safety of vaccinating children and teenagers.

Do the vaccines prevent long COVID and post COVID too?

If people still have symptoms more than four weeks after a COVID-19 , they are considered to have long COVID. If the symptoms still haven't gone away after more than twelve weeks, it is called post COVID. These longer-lasting symptoms mainly include exhaustion, shortness of breath and difficulty concentrating. There is a lack of research on how well vaccinations can prevent long COVID and post COVID. But the available studies suggest that they also reduce the risk of longer-term symptoms.

Byambasuren O, Stehlik P, Clark J et al. Effect of covid-19 vaccination on long covid: systematic review. BMJ Med 2023; 2(1): e000385.

European Medicines Agency (EMA). Treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. 2023.

Robert Koch-Institut (RKI). Empfehlungen der Ständigen Impfkommission. 2023.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Updated on September 12, 2023

Next planned update: 2026


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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