Children and teens with developmental disabilities can be at higher risk for serious complications and hospitalization from COVID so it is especially important for them to get vaccinated.

Parents and caregivers of children and teens with developmental disabilities may have specific concerns that you can help address. Personalize these talking points referring to the patient by name and to their specific condition to guide your conversations.

Ask what they have heard about the COVID vaccines:

  • Hear their concerns and fears about their child receiving the vaccine. Acknowledge them. Ask if they would like you to provide more information.

Make a strong case:

  • Children and teens with disabilities are at higher risk of being hospitalized with COVID. If they get sick, it could lead to serious health problems, as we do not fully understand the long-term effects of COVID infections.
  • It is important for us to do everything we can to protect them from COVID. I strongly recommend the COVID vaccine.
  • All people who come into contact with them should get vaccinated as well if eligible, including family members, teachers, etc.
  • More than 14 million cases in children have been reported since the pandemic began, and the number continues to rise. COVID vaccines are STILL a critical strategy to fight COVID.

Explain how COVID vaccines work:

  • The COVID-19 vaccine works similarly to other vaccines your child has had. Germs such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, invade and multiply inside the body. The vaccine helps stop this by teaching the immune system to recognize and make antibodies to protect us from getting very sick from the virus.
  • The mRNA vaccines are given in a two or three dose series. An additional dose may be given to moderately to severely immunocompromised children. A booster dose is recommended for some children depending on their age (Review Dosing Quick Reference Guide).
  • Consider sharing this animated video about how COVID vaccines work.

Explain common side effects of the vaccine:

  • They may experience a sore arm or fever after the vaccine. (Consider suggestions to mitigate possible effects, such as medications, as applicable).
  • The vaccine is contraindicated only for those with a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose or to a component of the COVID vaccine, or a known, diagnosed allergy to a component of a COVID vaccine. Other allergies are not a contraindication to vaccination, although additional precautions may be needed.

Reassure parents and caregivers that the COVID vaccines are safe for their child:

  • The vaccines are safe and effective for kids with the child’s condition.
  • Millions of children and teens have already received the COVID vaccines, and I am confident in the safety for your child.
  • Clinical trials for the vaccines included children with disabilities like developmental delays and children with a history of prematurity.
  • These vaccines have the most intensive safety monitoring in US history.

Consider a personal story:

  • I chose to get vaccinated because...
  • I chose to have my child(ren) vaccinated because...

Promote the benefits of the COVID vaccines:

  • The COVID vaccine is an important tool to keep them safe.
  • The COVID vaccine will lower their risk of getting sick. And, if they do get COVID, they are likely to have a much milder case.
  • The COVID vaccine can help them participate in activities, therapy and school.
  • Vaccination helps to protect the community.

Be ready to answer questions:

Let parents and caregivers know that you are here to answer any questions they may have. Encourage them to visit to learn more about COVID and why it is so important for their child to get vaccinated. Consider sharing this video where pediatricians answer the most common questions about the vaccines.


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American Academy of Pediatrics