COVID-19 Vaccines and Your Family

drawing of family getting their covid-19 vaccines

Key Takeaways

  • In the United States, the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently approved for emergency use.
  • Kids age 12+ are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, with Moderna authorization close behind.
  • Until everyone is able to receive the vaccine, social distancing, masks, and hand-washing remain important when interacting with those outside of your bubble.
  • It is safe to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The vaccine is not linked to any issues of infertility.

In the United States, COVID-19 vaccines from three companies are approved for use: Pfizer and Moderna (two doses), and Johnson & Johnson (single dose). With so much misinformation circulating, it’s important to find clear, science-backed answers to all your vaccine questions.

As scientists and medical professionals continue to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, the path forward will be clearer. Here is the latest information available about the COVID-19 vaccines that you and your family should know.

A Word From Verywell Family

Verywell Family strives to provide our readers with the most up-to-date and medically accurate information possible but recognizes that the situation surrounding kids and COVID-19 vaccines is rapidly evolving.

We encourage you to check back regularly as we are always updating articles and will continue to share all progress being made on the topic.

Who Is Eligible for the Vaccine?

By April 19, individuals age 16 and over were eligible to get the vaccine in all 50 states. This was significantly earlier than the projected deadline of May 1. As of April 18, roughly half of adult Americans have had at least one shot.

On May 10, under an emergency use authorization, people over age 12 have been approved to get the Pfizer vaccine.

Current vaccine availability varies by location. Some rural areas have experienced difficulty getting vaccine doses to residents. In other places, vaccine hesitancy has caused supply to outpace demand.

Check your state's Department of Health website for the latest on vaccine availability and how you can make a vaccine appointment for yourself or a loved one.

When Will Children Be Eligible to Receive a COVID-19 Vaccine? 

In 2019, there were about 73 million people under the age of 18 living in the United States. As of mid-January 2021, there were just over 2.5 million reported cases of COVID-19 in children across the United States, making up about 12.6% of total infections. 

The minimum age approved for the Pfizer vaccine is 12, and 18 for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. In March 2021, Pfizer and Moderna both began trials of their Covid-19 vaccines in children 6 months to 12 years. Johnson & Johnson also has plans for further trials that will include infants.

“I think a vaccine will be approved for kids down to 3 to 4 years of age by this time next year, maybe a bit sooner,” says Dr. Robert Frenck, lead investigator of the COVID-19 vaccine trials at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Overall, children are less likely to experience severe effects from COVID-19. A December review published in the BMJ Archives of Disease in Childhood listed several potential reasons for this phenomenon.

One theory was that since children often have frequent recurring viral infections, their immune system is more easily activated. Another theory is that children tend to be infected with a smaller viral load than adults, who may have more intense levels of exposure at work or while running errands. A smaller viral load has been linked to less severe symptoms.

Robert Frenck, MD

I think a vaccine will be approved for kids down to 3 to 4 years of age by this time next year, maybe a bit sooner.

— Robert Frenck, MD

Vaccination of children is an essential step in returning to normal safely. “If we ever want to really get to community protection, we will need all members of the community to have access to COVID vaccines. By incorporating children into that plan, we will get to the level of community protection we need to stop this pandemic,” says Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and director of the Office of Clinical Trials at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

illustration about covid vaccine questions

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

Can Kids Be Around People Who Have Been Vaccinated?

With the timeline around a vaccine for children remaining uncertain, families question whether kids can interact with vaccinated relatives—such as grandparents.

The vaccine itself can not transport the virus to others. “None of the vaccinations have any live or killed whole-cell virus,” says Nachman. “So, there is no chance that either the person who got a vaccine will get COVID-19 from their vaccine, or that any close family member will get COVID-19 from a person who just got a vaccine.”

However, it's possible a vaccinated person can still be a carrier for COVID-19 and transmit it to people around them. Studies are ongoing on that front, but early results are promising regarding the vaccines' ability to limit transmission.

As previously stated, children can also be infected and transmit the virus. The vaccines are not 100% effective, meaning a person is still at risk—albeit much lower—of contracting COVID-19 even after receiving all required doses.

Until there is herd immunity, precautions such as masking, staying six feet apart, and maintaining proper hygiene are necessary even when a party involved is vaccinated.

Can You Receive a Vaccine If You're Pregnant or Breastfeeding? 

The FDA is not the only entity that has approved vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding individuals. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine have all given their support for vaccination.

That said, some vaccines have more support than others. In early April, the CDC and FDA paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccination programs due to concerns about a rare form of blood clot, occurring in roughly six out of 6.8 million recipients of the vaccine. On April 23, the FDA and CDC lifted the pause after a thorough safety review, saying that the benefits of the J&J vaccine far outweigh the risks. They have not yet provided any guidance for pregnant individuals who wish to take the J&J vaccine.

In response to the pause on J&J vaccines, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists has urged pregnant individuals seeking vaccination to get Pfizer or Moderna shots instead.

In a January study from JAMA Pediatrics, researchers found that coronavirus antibodies transferred across the placenta to the baby in 87% of cases. Vaccinations may work similarly.

Vaccination during pregnancy has the added benefit of helping to protect your baby for their first few months of life with passive transfer of maternal antibody to an infant after 36 weeks gestation,” says Nachman.  

A vaccinated person who is breastfeeding may also be able to give antibodies to their baby. “Vaccination while lactating has similar benefits to babies with passive transfer of antibody to baby via breast milk,” Nachman adds.

A recent study on the safety of mRNA vaccines in 35,691 individuals who were pregnant between December 14, 2020, to February 28, 2021, found that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do not appear to have any serious risks for pregnant women. The self-reported data was from the CDC's V-safe smartphone-based surveillance system and the CDC's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), and did not include outcomes from any women vaccinated in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Dr. Robert Frenck

All of the COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated very high protection against the development of moderate to severe disease—hospitalization, ICU admission, and death.

— Dr. Robert Frenck

While there’s no evidence that the COVID vaccine is riskier for a pregnant person, having the actual virus can be. “While the absolute risk for severe COVID-19 infection is low, the data show that symptomatic pregnant women are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant adults,” says Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois.

“It’s important to note that Black and Latinx individuals who are pregnant appear to have a disproportionately higher prevalence of COVID-19 infection and death," Hirshfeld-Cytron says.

Can the COVID-19 Vaccines Impact Fertility? 

The COVID-19 vaccine cannot negatively impact a person’s fertility. This myth started after a November story claimed that the “head of Pfizer research” called the Pfizer vaccine “female sterilization.”

Not only is the claim debunked and not an accurate representation of what was said, but the man in question, Michael Yeadon, hasn’t worked for Pfizer since 2011, and he was never involved in vaccine development.

The misconception that vaccines could impact fertility alleges that a protein in the placenta, synctin-1, may resemble the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus enough that antibodies made in response to the vaccine would somehow target the placenta. "This is completely untrue,” says Nachman. "With all of the individuals who had COVID-19, we have not seen any drop in female fertility.”

Hirshfeld-Cytron concurs, “Because the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are not composed of live virus, they are not thought to cause an increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies.”

The long and short of it: There is no evidence that any approved COVID-19 vaccine can impact a person’s fertility.

What Are the Potential Side Effects of the Vaccines? 

Like any vaccine, the available options for COVID have potential side effects.

According to William W. Li, MD, a physician and scientist, possible side effects of the COVID vaccines include:

  • Some arm soreness where injected
  • General muscle soreness
  • Flu-like symptoms for a day or two

The effects you feel may be different between the two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. “Some report the second of two jabs brings on more side effects than the first, since your immune system is ramped up at that point,” says Li. “Some special precautions exist for people who have severe allergic reactions to past vaccines, who have severe food allergies, or those who have had cosmetic fillers.”

William W. Li, MD

Some report the second of two jabs brings on more side effects than the first, since your immune system is ramped up at that point. Some special precautions exist for people who have severe allergic reactions to past vaccines, who have severe food allergies, or those who have had cosmetic fillers.

— William W. Li, MD

Li notes that the 15-minute observation period post-injection in the presence of healthcare staff is for catching any serious reactions.

While the potential side effects of receiving a COVID vaccine can be irritating, the impact of catching the virus is far worse. “The risks of not being vaccinated are much higher than receiving the vaccine. As with everything in medicine, it is about the risk versus benefit,” says Li. “The vaccine has much more benefit, from an individual and societal perspective, than risk. Everyone wants out of the pandemic—and getting vaccinated is the first major step to get there.”

What This Means For You

Keep up to date on new developments detailing when it's safe for you and your loved ones to receive the vaccine.

“All of the COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated very high protection against the development of moderate to severe disease—hospitalization, ICU admission, and death,” says Frenck. “We need to get people vaccinated to end the pandemic. So, if you are offered a vaccine, please take it. It could save your life.”

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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