Home » COVID vaccine rollout for kids ages 5-11: What to know

COVID vaccine rollout for kids ages 5-11: What to know

COVID vaccine rollout for kids ages 5-11: What to know


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Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be authorized and recommended for kids ages 5-11 in early November, and the Biden administration “will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation,” according to a White House announcement Wednesday. 

If you have a child under 12 who’s unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19 yet, don’t expect the same vaccine campaign and mass vaccination sites that reached adults. According to the Biden administration’s plan to vaccinate kids ages 5-11, efforts and resources will be given to pharmacies, doctor’s offices, children’s hospitals and school- and community-based centers. In other words, there may be a more personal approach. (As The New York Times reported, lines of crying kids at mass vaccination sites are best to be avoided, as they may not love the idea of receiving a shot in the first place.) Like all COVID-19 vaccines, shots for kids will be free. 

The vaccine itself may also look a little different. Children ages 5-11 will be receiving a smaller dose of Pfizer’s vaccine — 10 micrograms instead of the 30 micrograms given people age 12 and older — and it will be administered via a smaller needle. 

In order to provide parents with information about COVID-19 vaccination for kids so they can make decisions for their families, the US Department of Health and Human Services is also launching a national public education campaign about the COVID-19 virus and vaccine in children. Fortunately, children remain at low risk of severe COVID-19 disease and death compared with the adult population (of states that reported data to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 0.1%-2% of COVID-19 cases in children resulted in hospitalization). But children can suffer complications of COVID-19, including long COVID

While kids age 11 or younger can’t be vaccinated quite yet, teens ages 12 and older can be. As we wait on authorization and recommendations for younger kids, here’s what to know now about coronavirus vaccines for kids. 

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When can kids get a COVID-19 vaccine?

An independent advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration is meeting on Oct. 26 to vote on whether the FDA should authorize Pfizer’s low-dose COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11. Pfizer said in September that its vaccine is safe and effective for children in that age group. Once the authorization is formally accepted by the FDA, an independent advisory committee to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting Nov. 2-3 to decide how the shots are administered to children, and the CDC will need to formally accept their recommendation. Both agencies typically follow the advice of their advisory committees, so we can expect a final decision for kids ages 5-11 in early November.  

The other mRNA vaccine, Moderna, and the only single-dose vaccine on the US market, Johnson & Johnson, aren’t available for kids yet.

If my child is immunocompromised or has a health condition, can they get a booster? 

If your child is at least 12 years old, “moderately or severely” immunocompromised and vaccinated with Pfizer, according to the CDC, they should get a third dose of Pfizer. Moderna is only authorized for people aged 18 and older. Examples of people who are immunocompromised include people receiving treatment for cancers in the blood or tumors, organ transplant recipients, stem cell transplant recipients, people with untreated or advanced HIV infection and people taking drugs that could suppress the immune response, per the CDC. 

Pfizer’s booster for people with other health conditions, including asthma, obesity, diabetes and other conditions, only applies to adults and isn’t authorized for anyone under the age of 18. There are no exceptions for kids or teens in the CDC’s recommendation.

Does Pfizer’s full FDA approval extend to kids?

The FDA’s approval of Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, only applies to people as young as 16 years old. While Pfizer remains the only vaccine authorized for use in kids as young as 12 years old, vaccinating that age group is still under emergency use authorization rather than total approval. This is because, along with other factors, full FDA approval requires data on how the vaccine fares six months out, per NPR. Pfizer’s vaccine was only authorized for kids aged 12 to 15 in May. 

This means that a vaccine mandate that hinges on full approval of a coronavirus vaccine, such as the one announced for school kids in California, won’t apply to kids younger than 16 for a while.

My child has allergies. Can they get the vaccine?

“If the child has a history of anaphylaxis or other severe allergies, then the observation time after the injection may be 30 minutes instead of 15,” Dr. Anne Liu, an infectious disease specialist with Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, said in August. So, you might be asked to stick around the waiting room with your child for an extra 15 minutes so health care providers can monitor vaccine recipients for the (extremely rare) allergic reaction that can occur after any vaccination. 

Additionally, Liu says, children who are prescribed an EpiPen for any reason should bring it to their vaccine appointment. 

If your child has a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine available to them, they shouldn’t take it, according to the World Health Organization. Adults allergic to any ingredient a COVID-19 also shouldn’t take that vaccine. Find the ingredients for Pfizer on the FDA fact sheet, as well as Moderna’s components.

Can my child get the COVID-19 shot at the same time as other vaccines?

Yes, according to the CDC, your child may get other vaccines when they go in for their coronavirus shot without waiting 14 days between appointments.

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Moderna is testing its vaccine on children aged 12 through 17.


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Should I worry about myocarditis? 

Myocarditis and pericarditis, or inflammation in the heart, is a rare side effect linked to Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, mostly in adolescent males and young adults. After looking at data and weighing the risks and benefits, the CDC still recommends everyone, including children as young as 12, get vaccinated. According to a Washington Post report, the CDC and FDA are looking into Canadian data that suggests Moderna might carry a higher risk of myocarditis than Pfizer, mainly in young people. 

When cases of myocarditis have occurred, Liu said, the cases have typically responded to treatment and resolved themselves, even when patients were hospitalized for a day or two. 

“COVID-19 infection can have much more serious consequences for the heart than the vaccine,” Liu said.

The government in Singapore, where 82% of the population is fully vaccinated, recommends people, especially adolescents and young men, refrain from strenuous exercise for a week after their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC recommends speaking to a doctor about when to return to sports or exercise following a diagnosis of myocarditis.

If I’m pregnant or breastfeeding, can I get vaccinated?

Yes, according to the CDC, because pregnant people are at much higher risk of severe COVID-19 and complications, including death, than people who aren’t pregnant. 

Preliminary data shared by the CDC showed there was no increased risk of miscarriage among those who got an mRNA vaccine before the 20th week of pregnancy, compared with those who didn’t. 

My child can’t be vaccinated yet. What should we do? 

When spending time with other families with children, it’s best if everyone continues to wear a mask, according to Harvard Health, and they should isolate themselves if there’s a COVID-19 exposure. Additionally, choosing more outdoor activities and avoiding crowds, even when outdoors, can help protect your kids. Parents and older siblings who are vaccinated should also mask up to prevent breakthrough infections that can spread to vulnerable people who aren’t as protected, including kids. 

The CDC has prioritized in-person learning for students this fall, and it has guidance on prevention strategies schools should use to keep students and staff safe. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.