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Tips for health care providers: How to talk to parents about the COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

If you’re a health care provider in 2021, you’re probably having countless conversations with patients about the COVID-19 vaccine. With the FDA’s decision to approve a version of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11 comes a new group of eligible patients, and with that, a new set of questions and concerns.

We've collected information and resources about the COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids. We also talk about parents' concerns and share tips for talking to parents about the vaccine.

Download our free tip sheets:

COVID vaccine guide for parents
Download PDF • 268KB
Tips for talking to your patients about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids
Download PDF • 186KB

Facts about the COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids

Here’s what we know so far about the newly approved vaccine:

  • The vaccine will contain 1/3 of the active ingredient in the adult dose

  • Like adults, kids will get 2 shots, given 21 days (3 weeks) apart

  • Study results show it prevents symptomatic COVID-19 infection in more than 9 out of 10 cases

  • The vaccine for younger kids can be kept in a refrigerator for up to 10 weeks

What concerns do parents have about vaccinating their kids against COVID-19?

While many parents anxiously awaited the FDA’s approval of this vaccine, others aren’t so sure whether they should vaccinate their kids. A recent survey including parents with kids ages 5-11 showed that:

  • About 1 in 3 parents say they will vaccinate their kids as soon as possible

  • 1 in 4 parents say they definitely won’t vaccinate their kids against COVID-19

  • 1 in 3 parents want to wait and see before making a decision

The number 1 concern for parents who hesitate to vaccinate their kids is safety.

In one study, about half of parents said that they’re worried the vaccine hasn’t been tested enough. The 2nd most common concern parents had was possible long-term side effects from the vaccine.

One side effect that especially concerns parents is myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that happened in a small number of older kids and young adults after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. However, experts say myocarditis is far more likely to happen due to getting sick with COVID-19 than as a side effect of vaccination.

Tips for talking to parents about the COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids

As a health care provider, you know your patients, their concerns, and how to talk to them to meet their individual needs. To help start the conversation with parents about COVID-19 vaccines, we collected a few tips from communication and health experts:

  • Emphasize safety. With safety being their number 1 concern, parents are looking to hear from trusted sources that the vaccine is safe for their kids. Here are a few talking points:

    • Study results have shown no new or severe side effects from the vaccine in kids ages 5-11

    • COVID-19 vaccines were developed using science that has been around for decades

    • Half of all U.S. teens between 12 and 17 have safely gotten their COVID-shots

    • Long-term side effects from vaccines are extremely rare. We learned from other vaccines that if side effects are going to happen, they tend to happen within 6 weeks of getting a shot.

    • Health professionals agree that getting COVID-19 gives children a higher chance of health problems than the vaccine

  • Talk about the benefits. The COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t just protect kids from getting sick with the virus. It can also help:

    • Avoid disruptions to kids’ daily lives, such as missing school because they’re sick or have to quarantine

    • Make it safer for kids to do activities they enjoy, such as playing sports

    • Protect older or more vulnerable family members so families don’t have to worry about getting together for the holidays

Your role as a health care provider

You play a vital role in helping to vaccinate the roughly 28 million kids now eligible to get their COVID shot.

To make it as easy as possible to get the new vaccine, health officials will rely on settings parents and kids are familiar with, such as pediatrician’s offices, schools, rural health clinics, and pharmacies. Research shows that providers are among the sources parents trust most when it comes to getting health information – and this might be more important now than ever.

“Parents [of younger kids], especially those on the fence, need different information than parents who already vaccinated their older children,” says Nir Menachemi, researcher and department chair of health policy and management at the IU Fairbanks School for Public Health. “Parents need to hear from their child’s doctor or other experts and peers from within their community that vaccinating against COVID-19 is a good thing. Up until now, most of the messages have come from media outlets, and that is not enough.”


Download our free tip sheets:

COVID vaccine guide for parents
Download PDF • 268KB
Tips for talking to your patients about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids
Download PDF • 186KB


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