Parents around the world are waiting with bated breath for the day when COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for children. For adolescents and teenagers 12 and older, that day has already passed.
While the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have only been authorized for emergency use in adults ages 18 and older, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has also been authorized for use in people ages 12 and up.
However, Moderna is close behind — after promising results from their clinical trial of the vaccine in people ages 12-17, they are expected to seek authorization for that age group soon.
Getting the vaccine means taking a step closer toward normalcy, but we’re not there just yet.
Here are 6 things to talk to your teenager about once they have been fully vaccinated*.
*Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of a 2-dose vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) or two weeks after receiving their single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).
1. It’s not over till it’s over.
It’s natural for anyone who has gotten vaccinated to feel like they don’t need to worry about COVID-19 anymore. And for teenagers — who are notorious for feeling invincible — getting vaccinated can feel like getting some sort of superpower.
Before your teen runs out of the house without their mask, remind them that they aren’t totally in the clear. Reiterate that while the vaccine is extremely effective, it is still possible to get COVID-19 — and even to get a severe or life-threatening case of it — after being vaccinated. Also, warn them that we don’t know how effective vaccines are (or will be) against future variants.
2. Getting vaccinated doesn’t mean they can hang out with whoever they want, wherever they want.
One of the most exciting things about being vaccinated is finally getting to see friends again indoors, without physical distancing or wearing masks.
Once your teen has been fully vaccinated, it’s okay to loosen the reins a little and let them see their friends — but only if everyone is following CDC guidelines.
What Can You Do When You’re Vaccinated?
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can:
- Be indoors together, without masks or physical distancing.
- Be indoors with unvaccinated people from just one other household, without masks or physical distancing (do still take safety precautions if someone in that household is at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19).
- Be outdoors without masks or physical distancing, except when in crowds.
- Be with others without getting tested, even if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 — but only if they are asymptomatic. If they have symptoms, they should get tested and quarantine until receiving a negative result.
3. Not everyone is on the same page about being vaccinated.
There are plenty of reasons why your teen’s friend might be hesitant to get the vaccine, such as being nervous about side effects or worrying that it was developed too quickly. Other friends might want to get the vaccine, but their parents won’t let them.
Let your teen know that while it’s okay to encourage their friends to get vaccinated (as long as their parents will allow it), they can’t cross the line.
Attacking a friend’s or their parents’ views, making them feel dumb, or blowing off their concerns isn’t the way to go about it. Instead, they should listen to their friend’s reasoning. They can share information from trusted resources (like the CDC or our very own COVID-19 Resource Center), or encourage them to talk to their physician about it. But they need to be careful to be respectful and not to overstep.
4. They may need another shot later.
Right now, it’s not clear how long immunity will last, or if it will be effective against every variant. There is a possibility that people will need booster shots down the line — possibly within a year. It’s also possible we will need one every year, like the flu shot.
Your teen might be a bit huffy about having to do it again, especially if they had side effects. Or, they may think that the vaccine isn’t very effective. Preparing them ahead of time might make it an easier pill to swallow — and give them more confidence in its effectiveness — if and when booster shot time comes around.
5. There is still a slight possibility of being able to transmit it.
We’ve seen early evidence that while it may be possible for vaccinated people to still transmit the virus, it’s fairly unlikely. Getting vaccinated most likely helps you protect others.
That being said, nothing is confirmed yet. Even if the vaccine is effective at stopping transmission, it might not be 100% effective at doing so. The unvaccinated are relying on everyone who could possibly spread the virus — including those who are vaccinated — to do their part. That means still wearing masks and keeping up social distancing in crowds or indoor public spaces, and not letting handwashing go by the wayside.
6. They’ve done a great job.
Teens certainly haven’t had the “normal” teen experience this past year. There may have been some tears and frustration along the way. There may have been some pushback on wearing masks or staying away from friends. But these are typical reactions for anyone — and especially teens.
Through it all, your teen has shown strength and perseverance. And that deserves to be celebrated.
Haven’t gotten your teen vaccinated yet?
Children’s is now vaccinating children ages 12 and older. To schedule a vaccination appointment, call your Children’s Physicians pediatrician’s office or 402-955-SHOT from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for an appointment.
Visit our COVID Vaccine Clinics page to learn more.