A Pharmacist Explains: Kids and COVID-19 Vaccines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years. Vaccinating this age group, in addition to adolescents and adults, will help reduce the chance of serious illness from COVID-19 while also helping to protect family and community members at a higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is already recommended for adolescents and adults 12 years and older.
Is the pediatric vaccine the same as the adult vaccine?
Although the vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years contains the same active ingredients as the vaccine recommended for individuals aged 12 years and older, the dose kids receive is one-third of the adult dose. Smaller needles, designed specifically for children, are also used. Similar to the adolescent and adult vaccination series, the vaccines are given in two separate doses three weeks apart.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes. Before the vaccine was recommended, clinical trials were conducted in children to make sure the vaccine is safe. Children have experienced similar side effects from the vaccine as adults including pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site and aches, muscle pain, chills, and fever. Side effects generally occurred within a few days of receiving the shot but went away after a day or two. It is not recommended to give pain relievers before the shot, but placing a cool, damp cloth on the injection site can help with discomfort. COVID-19 vaccines are being monitored for safety with the most comprehensive and intense safety monitoring program in U.S. history.
Severe allergic reactions, like anaphylaxis, can happen after any vaccination but are rare. The CDC has an after vaccination health-checker to monitor side effects and serious adverse events.
Should my child get vaccinated?
Yes. Although children are less likely to become severely sick due to COVID-19, they can still become infected, spread the virus, and are at risk for both short and long-term health issues from COVID-19. Experts agree that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks. Your child may get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including flu vaccine, at the same time.
Where can my child get vaccinated?
There are currently 28 million children eligible for vaccination and the CDC has already initiated shipments of 15 million doses to start vaccination efforts. The COVID-19 vaccine is free to all people aged 5 years and older. Ask your child’s healthcare provider if they offer COVID-19 vaccination or ask your local pharmacist if vaccinations are available for children. You may also visit vaccines.gov to find COVID-19 vaccines near you.
What about children under the age of 5 years?
The vaccine is not currently recommended or available for children under the age of 5 years and studies are ongoing. The CDC recommends that children aged 2 years and older who are not vaccinated wear a mask in public.