Kids 5-11 Can Now Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19
Nov 03, 2021
NOTE: A version of this content originally appeared in Vaccinate Your Family’s Immunization Alerts eNewsletter, sent out on Wednesday November 3, 2021. Stay up to date on the latest vaccine news by subscribing here.
On November 2nd, the CDC recommended Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11. The Pfizer vaccine is now available for people 5 and older in the U.S. Find a vaccine appointment for your child at vaccines.gov.
If you have questions about how the COVID-19 vaccines work, vaccine safety or availability, check out our COVID-19 FAQ.
Following a meeting and vote from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the CDC recommends Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, delivered in two doses spaced three weeks apart. This news follows last week’s FDA’s authorization of the vaccine for children in this age group under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA.
In clinical trials in children ages 5-11, the vaccine was 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. There were no serious vaccine-related safety concerns in the clinical trial. The vaccine offers strong protection against COVID-19 amid the ongoing pandemic.
Pfizer’s vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine that is FDA authorized for use in children. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently authorized for adults 18 and older.
Experts recommend the vaccine for kids after carefully considering the benefits and potential risks.
Over the course of two weeks of meetings, independent experts on the FDA and CDC’s advisory panels (VRBPAC and ACIP respectively) discussed the need for vaccines for the 5-11 age group, as well as the potential risks.
Vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 can:
- Reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, health complications, hospitalization, and death for children. While COVID-19 is less likely to cause severe illness in children than in adults, many children HAVE gotten very sick after being infected. Over 8,300 children ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 172 have died (data as of November 3, 2021). Children are also at risk of long-term health conditions due to COVID-19 infection (long COVID), including the very serious Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a condition where different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.Over 5,200 cases of MIS-C have been reported so far with most cases occurring in children between 5 and 13 years old.
- Reduce the spread of COVID-19. Children CAN be infected and spread COVID-19 to others, including people they come in contact with in their school, their community, and their household. As we all know too well, there have been outbreaks in schools and summer camps that have led to severe cases as well as closures.
- Help kids and families get back to life. Vaccinating kids can help keep in-person learning on track and make school and extracurricular activity environments (like sports and summer camps) safer. If you get your child vaccinated as soon as possible, they might even be protected against COVID before the end of the year. (Remember, people are not considered “fully vaccinated” until 2 weeks after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.)
- Make sure those who need it most have access. Children with certain health conditions or who live in an environment with higher exposure to COVID-19 are at higher risk of COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 illness is also occurring at higher rates in Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic children than in non-Hispanic White children because of systemic racial inequities. Making the vaccine widely available for this age group helps to ensure that those who need it most do not face additional hurdles in getting vaccinated.
How do we know the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for kids?
- This recommendation is based on careful review of clinical trials data, in which over 3,000 children ages 5-11 got two doses of the vaccine. There were no serious safety concerns related to the vaccines in the trials.
- Mild to moderate, temporary reactions to the COVID vaccine were similar to those in people 12 years and older and included pain and/or redness where the shot was given, fever, tiredness (fatigue), headache, chills, and muscle pain. Many of these short-term reactions were reported LESS often in the 5-11 age group compared to individuals 12 and over.
- There were no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis in the clinical trials. Cases of myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle and the area around the heart muscle) have been seen rarely in some mRNA COVID vaccine recipients, with the highest rates in young males 16 to 29 years old after their second vaccine dose. Experts discussed this potential side effect and they take the concern very seriously. It is possible that the clinical trials were not big enough to see cases of myo- or pericarditis after vaccination because of how rare it is. If your child has chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart, especially if it’s within a week of COVID vaccination, seek medical care. It’s important to remember that COVID-19 infection increases the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis by 37x.
- The myocarditis and pericarditis cases related to vaccination have been largely treatable — many people recover with rest, and those who do need medical assistance typically respond well to treatment.
- Over 248 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the U.S. and over 7 million children between 12 and 15 years old are fully vaccinated. We have more data showing the safety of these vaccines than we will EVER have for most other medicines, vitamins or nutritional supplements.
- The lower dose that is recommended for children 5-11 (⅓ of the dose recommended for people 12 and older) was chosen to giveyounger kids the same strong protection at the lowest dose to be as safe as possible. The safety of this vaccine in children will continue to be monitored through the U.S. vaccine safety monitoring systems, including v-safe, VAERS, VSD, CISA and more.
Make sure to register your child for v-safe, CDC’s smartphone-based tool that checks in on you after COVID-vaccination, after your child’s first COVID vaccine dose.
Have you read:
- COVID Vaccine Boosters: What You Need to Know
- 3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Son to Flu
- The Top 10 Things You Need to Know This Flu Season
How can I get my child vaccinated against COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11 will be free, as it is for everyone in the U.S, and it will be in a new formulation with new packaging and administration instructions. This means that vaccine providers won’t be using the same Pfizer vaccine vials as they do for older children, teens and adults. Officials are already working to distribute the children’s Pfizer vaccine to every state and will make it available as quickly as possible. If you plan to vaccinate your child (5-11 years old), start here:
- Check with your family physician or pediatrician (if you have one). Healthcare locations and providers can enroll to administer the vaccine, so your doctor/practice may already have done so. You may be able to schedule an appointment with them.
- If you do not have a pediatrician but would like to talk to a healthcare provider and vaccinate your child, try finding a Health Center near you.
- Vaccination clinics, pharmacies, and community vaccination sites are also able to begin administering vaccines to children under 12 immediately. We might also see vaccination sites at some schools to help increase access to the COVID vaccine. More options for where to get your child vaccinated are likely to emerge in the coming days and weeks. Exact locations will vary based on where you are. Check in with your local or state health department.
- Remember to schedule the second dose when your child gets their first COVID shot. You’ll need to take your child back for their second dose 3 weeks later. And don’t forget to register for v-safe, which will also send you a reminder when the second dose is due.
- If your child is 11 ½, don’t wait until they are 12 to get vaccinated. The sooner they are vaccinated, the sooner they are protected from COVID-19.
Find more advice for getting your child ready for the COVID-19 vaccine from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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