Updated: November 12, 2021
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The following guidance for children and adolescents applies to vaccines currently authorized or approved for their age.
Children and adolescents aged 5-17 should be vaccinated against COVID-19
The science has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all children and adolescents 5 years of age and older who do not have contraindications for using COVID-19 vaccines available for their age. Vaccination of children and adolescents aged 5-17 brings us one step closer to ending this pandemic and is an additional layer of protection for the most vulnerable among us.
Children and adolescents are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19
Cases of COVID-19 infection are rising in children and adolescents. While most COVID-19 infections in children and adolescents are mild, some infections are severe or even fatal. In addition to health risks due to the COVID-19 infection itself, children and adolescents are at risk for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) that can occur two to six weeks after the COVID-19 infection.
MIS-C is a condition that can occur after COVID-19 infection in which different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. MIS-C is serious, even deadly, although with prompt and often intensive care, most children and adolescents with MIS-C in the USA survive.
Children and adolescents with MS should be vaccinated against COVID-19
The importance of COVID-19 vaccination for children and adolescents with MS and related disorders mirrors the advice for children and adolescents in general, as well as the advice for adults with MS. While there is no evidence to date that children and adolescents with MS experience more severe COVID-19 infection, nor that they are at higher risk for MIS-C due to COVID-19 compared to children and adolescents who do not have MS, vaccination is strongly encouraged. Like other medical decisions, the decision to get a vaccine is best made in partnership with your healthcare provider.
Risk of complications from a COVID-19 infection is higher than of any potential complications from the vaccine
Studies have found more complications, like myocarditis, MIS-C and demyelinating events, after children and adolescents have COVID-19 infection than following COVID-19 vaccination. The benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risks. Review Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on vaccination for those who have had COVID-19 or MIS-C.
COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are confident the COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility. They base this on the science of how the vaccines are made and a study has confirmed this. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also affirms that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 does not interfere with girls' or boys' future fertility. Watch this short video from the AAP to learn more.
The COVID-19 vaccines are not expected to cause MS or trigger an MS relapse
None of the available vaccines contain live virus and the vaccines will not cause COVID-19. There is nothing to indicate that the vaccines will cause MS. For children and adolescents with MS, the vaccines are not likely to trigger an MS relapse or have any impact on long-term disease progression. The risk of getting COVID-19 far outweighs any risk of having an MS relapse from the vaccine.
Any vaccine can cause side effects, including a fever. A fever can make MS symptoms worse temporarily, but they should return to prior levels after the fever is gone. Even if side effects occur, it’s important to get the second dose of the mRNA vaccines for them to be effective.
Children and adolescents who use medications to manage MS and related disorders should be vaccinated
Some medications used for MS and related disorders may affect responses to the vaccines. Coordinating the timing of vaccine administration with these DMTs may provide the best vaccine response. Work with your MS healthcare provider to determine the best schedule for you. Review our guidance on timing MS medications with these vaccines.
Individuals consulted in the development of this guidance
The National MS Society consulted the following individuals in the development of this guidance:
MS neurologists and pediatric experts
- Nancy Sicotte, MD, FAAN — Chair, National MS Society’s National Medical Advisory Committee, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, USA
- Brenda Banwell, MD — Chair, MS International Federation International Medical and Scientific Advisory Board (IMSB) — University of Pennsylvania, USA
- Maria Pia Amato, MD — University of Florence, Italy
- Amit Bar-Or, MD, FRCPC — President, International Society for Neuroimmunology, University of Pennsylvania, USA
- Tanuja Chitnis, MD — Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, USA
- Jorge Correale, MD — Raul Carrea Institute for Neurological Research, FLENI, Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Anne Cross, MD, FAAN — Washington University and Secretary of Board of Governors of the Consortium of MS Centers, USA
- Jaime Imitola, MD, FAAN — University of Connecticut, UConn Health, USA
- Cheryl Hemingway, MBChB, PhD — Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, UK
- Dorlan Kimbrough, MD — Duke University, USA
- Professor Deiva Kumaran — Paris South University Hospitals, France
- Avindra Nath, MD — National Institutes of Health/National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, USA
- Scott Newsome, DO, MSCS, FAAN, FANA — Johns Hopkins University and President of the Board of Governors of the Consortium of MS Centers, USA
- Daniela Pohl, MD, PhD — University of Ottawa, Canada
- Kevin Rostasy, MD — Children’s Hospital Datteln, University Witten/Herdecke, Germany
- Penny Smyth, MD, FRCPC — University of Alberta, Canada
- Rachael Stacom, MS, ANP-BC, MSCN — Independence Care System, USA
- Silvia Tenembaum, MD — Pediatric Hospital Dr. J. P. Garrahan, Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Dr. Evangeline Wassmer — Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital, UK
- Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD — University of California San Francisco, USA
Staff from MS partner organizations
- Julie Fiol, RN, MSCN — National MS Society, USA
- Pamela Kanellis, PhD — MS Society of Canada
- Julie Kelndorfer — MS Society of Canada
- Hope Nearhood, MPH, PMP — National MS Society, USA
- Leslie Ritter — National MS Society, USA