The welcome news that a COVID-19 vaccine has been given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for older adolescents and teens has led to a lot of questions. Most recently, there has been curiosity around reports that several young vaccine recipients may have developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after vaccination. The myocarditis seemed to occur more often in males than females and is typically seen within four days after the second dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently reviewing those reports, though experts maintain that the vaccine is safe.

Dr. Jerome Williams Jr. smiles in a white lab coat.
Dr. Jerome Williams Jr.

“These complications appear to be mild,” said Dr. Jerome Williams Jr., Novant Health senior vice president of consumer engagement. “It’s important to stress that the CDC review is still in its early stages and they have in no way suggested a pause in administration of the vaccine.”

While the CDC hasn’t found evidence the COVID vaccine caused this myocarditis, it posted guidance on its website urging people to be alert to unusual heart symptoms among young people who just received their shots.

Williams also emphasized that the potentially rare side effect of myocarditis pales in comparison to the potential risks of COVID, including the persistent syndrome called “long COVID.” Acute COVID itself can also cause myocarditis.

“We should all feel confident that the CDC is being very transparent. They're being very proactive at every stage, and closely examining all reports of adverse effects, no matter how rare or how mild,” Williams said.

Novant Health pediatrician Dr. Amra Zuzo of Novant Health Pediatrics Berewick reports that parents have been calling with questions – but they are overwhelmingly in support of getting their children vaccinated.

Some are asking if they can bring their child to the pediatrician’s office for the vaccine. “As of now, we have designated vaccination sites that are more efficient at getting patients in, vaccinated and out,” she said. “So, our clinics do not have COVID-19 vaccines, but we will be looking into that as time goes on.”

We spoke with Zuzo about some of the most common concerns.

If a minor wants the vaccine, but the minor’s parents are leery, what then?

Answers to parent questions about the Pfizer vaccine for teens
Dr. Amra Zuzo

As pediatricians, we will always discuss any concerns with the parent. But a minor can get the vaccine without the parent's approval or knowledge.

The parents I’ve talked to want their kids vaccinated, but they have questions about compatibility with other vaccines their children have to get – usually at 12 years old and again at around 15 and 16. I think it's great that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has formally come out and said we are able to give the COVID vaccine without waiting any time in between when we give other vaccines.

Does a minor need to be accompanied by an adult at their vaccination? Is parental consent required?

No. North Carolina law allows any minor to give consent for medical health services for the prevention or treatment of communicable diseases. Twelve- to 17-year-olds will not need a parent or legal guardian to schedule, accompany or give consent for them to get the vaccine.

How much does it cost?

All COVID-19 vaccines are given free, regardless of insurance status. No ID is required.

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Could the vaccine impact a child’s puberty – either speeding it up or delaying it?

No, there is no evidence of that. Our colleagues in obstetrics and gynecology have been monitoring the effects of COVID-19 and the COVID vaccine on pregnant women … and recently came out with a study stating there was no difference in the placenta of women who delivered babies after their COVID vaccine versus those who never got the COVID vaccine. This has been reassuring to us. Obviously, with any new vaccine, the CDC, pediatricians and parents all keep an eye on long-term side effects, including children's development. But we do not expect any problems with onset of puberty.

What about the possibility of the vaccine impacting a child’s fertility years from now?

Again, there is no evidence of that, per the CDC and the obstetrics and gynecology governing body. I think that is something that has gotten out and taken a life of its own.

What if a child has allergies? Is that an indication that they could have an allergic reaction to the vaccine?

Usually not. We definitely encourage all parents to let the administering medical professional know if their child has any history of allergies. But as of now, we are recommending that all children 12 and older get vaccinated for COVID despite their allergies.

Is the number of dosing or timing between shots different for this age group?

No. Everything about the dosing, including time between doses, is the same as for adults.

What are the potential side effects? Are they the same as for adults?

Reported side effects in the clinical trials for the 12- to 15-year-old age group were similar to young adults.

The most common are pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle aches and fever. These side effects are all expected (and not cause for concern). Those expected effects will be more likely after the second dose and usually last less than a day.

If side effects linger more than a few days, or if there is increased redness or tenderness at the injection site after 24 hours, talk to your child’s pediatrician. The vaccine has also caused very rare anaphylaxis reactions – just as it has in adults. That’s why patients are asked to stay for 15 to 30 minutes after they receive their shot. Staff can monitor them and respond should they have a severe reaction.

What about children below the age of 12 – when will a vaccine be approved for them?

Moderna and Pfizer are both currently studying their vaccines in children 6 months and older, so the hope is that in the next year, it will become available for our youngest patients, as well.

Anything else?

I think the biggest thing parents are worried about is: Will there be side effects? And the main thing there is that the side effects are the same as those we see with all the other vaccines.

It's also important to say that the way that this vaccine was made was using similar technology that we have used for so long for keeping the other vaccines safe. Although it is a new one, we feel comfortable with the process in which it was made and with the technology that was used.

Get vaccinated

Schedule your child’s vaccine directly in their Novant Health MyChart account or online at GetVaccinated.org. From there, you can schedule a vaccine appointment for your child with their MyChart account or as a guest. When scheduling, you can view which brand is available at each of Novant Health’s vaccination sites on a given day and can select their appointment time accordingly.

You can also walk into any of Novant Health’s vaccination sites (listed here) and request the vaccine, although the supply may be limited.

If you don’t have internet access or need assistance with scheduling, call 855-NH-VAC-4U (855-648-2248) and a Novant Health team member will help.