Brains On!
An illustration of a personified happy vaccine bottle wearing a cape in front of a personified grimacing COVID-19 illustration.

Vaccines and kids: Media resources to help answer kids’ questions

social scienceDr. Evelyn Ronning, Evaluation & Research Associate / Dr. Amy Grack Nelson, Evaluation & Research ManagerFeb 25, 2022

Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (#2029209)

In a 2021 research study of children aged 5-12 who listened to Brains On!, an American Public Media-produced science podcast for kids*, we asked caregivers about their kids’ questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

*It is important to note that our data tends to reflect the experiences of white-identifying, high-income, and highly educated families (families that tend to be Brains On! listeners). The experiences and voices from populations of children and families that have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of economic and racial disparities were not adequately represented in our study. 

One of the top topics of their questions was vaccines: Kids wanted to know if the vaccines would hurt, if they would be safe, if the vaccines work against new variants, and whether they would be available when they needed them. Kids understand that vaccines are key to life returning to “normal,” but often aren’t exactly sure how vaccines are made and how they work. Any uncertainty around the timing and effectiveness of vaccines also weighs heavily on children.

Resources for children

Using our research findings, Brains On! has developed a number of resources for children and their caregivers to learn about COVID-19 vaccines:

A guide to getting your COVID shot (aired 11/9/21) | This episode answers listeners’ questions about the COVID shot in a kid-friendly way.

Vaccines for kids and silver linings (aired 6/29/21) | This episode features a kid who participated in a clinical trial for the children’s vaccine and talks about how vaccines allow some people in kids’ families with vaccinations to behave differently than those who don’t have vaccinations.

What's in the COVID vaccine? (aired 2/23/21) | This episode answers kids’ big questions about the vaccine: how it’s made and how it works.

Brains On! has also made two short videos that are packed with kid-friendly information:

How scientists developed safe and effective vaccines so quickly - including the mRNA vaccine.

How vaccines spark our immune systems to protect us from severe COVID infection.

Resources for caregivers

For caregivers, Brains On! hosted a question and answer session with Dr. Azza Gadir, an immunologist, and Dr. Katherine Wu, a science writer for The Atlantic. Check out this video from November 2021 to help you talk to young people about vaccines.

Our research shows that kids need help to better understand how vaccines work, and how vaccines can change the course of the pandemic. Some of the information about vaccines is difficult for children to understand and for caregivers to translate, so kid-friendly resources like these developed by Brains On! are critical to helping families address the worries children may have about getting vaccinated.

Want to learn more about our COVID-19 research? 

You can read the full report and executive summary from our study. And check out the additional pandemic-related resources from Brains On! on their coronavirus hub page.