Most children hate going to the doctor for shots. It can be a scary place, especially for young children who are afraid of needles and need coaxing into the pediatric office. Though children are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s never too early to start preparing them for it.

With news circulating about more vaccines being administered every day, children may start to believe the pandemic is over. Fear has undoubtedly been prevalent in every household this past year, and news of the vaccine has brought hope for households all over the country. However, since children are not yet eligible for it, not knowing when they will receive the vaccine may be scary and confusing.

It’s crucial to have an open and honest discussion with your kids about when they might receive the vaccine. Some young children might be afraid to get the shot; others may see it as a ticket to normalcy. No matter what your child is feeling, make sure they know the basic facts and feel secure in their vaccine knowledge.

Here are some questions about the COVID-19 vaccine to discuss with your kids and absolve their fears or confusion.

Why Do I Need the Vaccine?

There are several reasons why getting the vaccine for children can be beneficial. Though it might feel painful getting it at first, explain to them the benefits of having it. They will eventually see distant family members, move around a little freer in their community, and see their friends.

Not only will they avoid getting sick from COVID, but they will also be protecting those around them. When many people are vaccinated against a deadly virus, the spread is limited and protects others who may not be vaccinated yet. This is called herd immunity.

You can use the classroom as an example to help your child understand. They may be one child in class who cannot get the vaccine because they have a certain illness or are taking medications. However, if everyone else who is healthy and strong in the class receives the vaccine, they can help protect that person from getting sick.

When Is It My Turn for the Vaccine?

For kids feeling anxious about getting the vaccine, not knowing when to expect it can be terrifying. However, this isn’t easy to answer with so many factors to consider.

Currently, the CDC recommends the first doses of the vaccine to be given to healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. The next groups eligible for vaccinations are frontline essential workers, people ages 65-74, people aged 16 and above with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers.

Showcase healthcare workers and explain how hard they have worked during the pandemic to keep others safe and healthy, putting themselves and their families at risk. These workers and the elderly who are at the highest risk of dying from COVID need to receive the vaccine first. This is a great moment to teach your children the spirit of thinking for others and having empathy for those more at-risk.  

You can check for the current eligible groups on the CDC website or your local county’s website.

Does This Mean the Pandemic Is Over?

This can be another difficult question to answer. With the vaccine becoming more widely distributed and things slowly opening up, kids may naturally think this means the pandemic is almost over. To them, getting the vaccine may mean taking off their masks, regular playdates with friends, and family trips. However, it would help if you informed them that they will still need to wear a mask outdoors and maintain social distancing even with the vaccine, according to CDC guidelines.

Though information may change as more people get the vaccine, you can tell your kids that the good news is COVID cases are reducing in the United States. However, it is important to remain realistic about the virus and continue to take safety precautions. Talk to your children about how following safety protocols are still essential to overcome the pandemic entirely. It may be hard for them to wait, but it will be worth it in the end.

 Are There Any Side Effects?

Children do not need to worry about the side effects of the vaccine. However, if kids watched their parents or family members endure COVID symptoms after getting their shot, reassure them that it is unlikely they will experience the same thing because of their age.

Though it is unknown if children will experience serious side effects from the vaccine, it is best to let your child know that side effects should not make them worry. As long as they are healthy and feeling well when they get the vaccine, they will most likely not suffer from side effects as adults.