Photo of child being vaccinated by doctor We will update this post as news comes out about COVID-19 vaccines and children. This post was last updated on Jan. 5, 2022.

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for adolescents 5-11 years of age. It continues to be available for children ages 12-15 and older.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children in these age groups get the COVID-19. The recommendation follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granting the vaccine Emergency Use Authorization for children.

Parents can get their child the COVID-19 vaccine at any place authorized to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Visit Vaccines.gov to find a location near you or call your local or county health department.

As of October 2021, there have been at least 1.9 million COVID-19 cases in the 5-11 age group, including 8,300 hospitalizations and 84 deaths, according to CDC. Overall, approximately 6.2 million children have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Widespread vaccination is a critical tool in stopping the pandemic, medical experts say.

“Children are very much part of the herd immunity picture,” says board-certified allergist Purvi Parikh, MD. “We can’t get out of this pandemic until our children are vaccinated, especially with schools reopening. I know there is a lot of hesitancy because parents are more protective of their children than themselves. What I say to them is that if your child gets this virus, it’s far scarier.”

In addition to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine is expected to become available for children soon.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project put together a list of frequently asked questions for parents. The FAQs are available in both English and Spanish.

What is the dosage for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5-11 will come in two doses, three weeks apart. This is the same as all other age groups. Children will be deemed fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose.

The dose for the 5-11 age group is one-third of that given to adults and adolescents. It is administered as an injection in a muscle, usually the arm. The doses will be available in pediatricians’ offices and primary care sites, as well as hospitals, pharmacies, community health clinics and possibly schools. The needle used to administer the vaccine to children ages 5-11 is expected to be smaller than needles for older age groups.

When your child receives the first dose, make sure you schedule an appointment for the second dose. Until they are fully vaccinated, children will be advised to continue wearing masks, keeping their distance from others especially when indoors, and washing their hands.

What is the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine and it comes in two doses. It is designed to trigger an immune response that produces antibodies and protects people from getting infected when exposed to the real virus.

Is the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine effective in children?

A clinical trial of the 5-11 age group, conducted by Pfizer/BioNTech and presented to FDA, showed the vaccine was 90.7% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The antibody response to the vaccine was comparable to what is seen in people 16-25 years old.

Clinical trials involving children ages 12-15 showed the vaccine was 100% effective in children ages 12-15. Nearly 2,300 adolescents participated in the clinical trial. Half were given the vaccine and half were given a placebo. None of the children who received the vaccine got COVID-19, while 16 in the placebo group did get it. In addition, researchers said the vaccine’s antibody buildup was stronger in the 12-15 age group than for older teens and adults.

Should my child get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?

COVID-19 booster shots have been approved for children ages 12 and older.

Booster shots are available for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. It is recommended people receive the same vaccine dose as their initial series. The booster dose for Pfizer/BioNTech would be administered six months after the child received the second dose of the vaccine.

The COVID-19 booster shot is intended to bolster protection, especially against more transmissible variants. It may be particularly beneficial for people with weak immune systems, including those with asthma.

In addition, research shows that the COVID-19 vaccines decline in effectiveness against infection over time. COVID-19 vaccines continue to maintain strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization, however.

Side effects to the vaccine booster shot are considered similar to side effects of the initial vaccine dose.

What are the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine side effects?

Side effects were reported to be more common in the 12-15 age group than in those 16 and older. Fatigue was the most common side effect reported, with 78% of the 12-15 age group reporting it as part of the clinical trial. According to FDA, other side effects may include:

  • pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • nonallergic reactions such as rash, itching, hives or swelling of the face
  • nausea
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • arm pain

What is the risk for allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine?

In the Pfizer/BioNTech clinical trial of the 12-15 age group, there were no reports of serious allergic reactions. Cases of severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis, to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are very rare. As of Jan. 29, 2021, the anaphylaxis rate was five cases per 1 million Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses administered. Cases of severe allergic reactions to all vaccines are also very rare. It’s estimated at 1.31 cases per 1 million vaccine doses given.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can include:

  • difficulty breathing,
  • hives or skin rash
  • swelling of the face and/or throat
  • rapid heartbeat
  • dizziness

What is the allergic reaction protocol for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Any child with an allergy or risk of anaphylaxis to food, insect venom, oral medications, latex or environmental allergens is eligible to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Your child should NOT get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine if there is:

  • a history of anaphylaxis to any ingredient of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • a history of non-severe immediate allergic reactions to any ingredient of the vaccine
  • an allergy to polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG is a component in the vaccine
  • had a severe allergic reaction to a first dose of the vaccine

If you have any questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine and allergic reactions consult with your doctor or allergist.

What is the benefit vs. risk for children getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Now that children ages 12-15 are eligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, parents may have questions about it. Some may be concerned about the risk of long-term side effects or allergic reactions. Medical experts continue to emphasize the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any potential risks. Benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine include:

  • Preventing your child from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19
  • Preventing your child from spreading the virus to others
  • Increasing community-wide protection from COVID-19, making it harder for the virus to spread
  • Preventing the COVID-19 virus from replicating and possibly become more resistant to vaccines

What are the risks of not getting vaccinated and then getting COVID-19? While most children who get COVID-19 tend to experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, some do get severely ill. Adolescents and older children are more at risk for serious COVID-19 cases than younger children. Hospitalizations and deaths in children due to COVID-19 have been uncommon, according to AAP. Hospitalizations were from 0.1% to 2.0% of all cases among states reporting. Deaths were between 0.01% to 0.03% of all cases among states reporting. Three out of four of children who died from COVID-19 had an underlying medical condition such as asthma, obesity or a heart condition. In addition, children who have died of COVID-19 are disproportionately children of color: about 75% of all pediatric deaths have been children of color.

Medical researchers are also investigating cases of a rare but serious condition affecting some children with COVID-19. It’s called Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and symptoms involve inflammation of body organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, brain. It’s unknown at this time what the risk factors are for developing MIS-C.

Will there be a vaccine mandate to attend school in person?

This will depend on the state you live in – and possibly the school district your child attends.

Can my child get other routine vaccinations at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?

The CDC says healthcare professionals can administer other routine vaccinations, such as for measles and HPV, at the same time as the COVID-19 shot. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports this as well. Routine vaccinations have reportedly fallen off during the pandemic. Doctors say it’s important that children resume vaccinations.

What should I do if my child is not vaccinated against COVID-19?

If your child is not vaccinated, it’s important they continue to take preventive steps to avoid getting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. This includes: practicing social distancing and avoiding large crowds of people; wearing a mask outside the home; and washing hands often. Reduce risk of Covid-19 by following the universal protocol: wash hands, watch your distance, wear a mask Infographic children's version