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COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 now available

Safety | November 8, 2021
Facts on COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11
The CDC recommends vaccine for kids after clinical trials show it to be safe and effective.

On Nov. 2, the CDC recommended that all children between the ages of 5 and 11 be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s what parents need to know about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, the possible side effects, and the benefits of getting vaccinated.

COVID-19’s risk to children is not zero

While children becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 is relatively rare compared with adults, some children develop complications, and infections in unvaccinated kids have risen due to the easily transmitted Delta variant of the coronavirus. According to the CDC, almost 2 million kids ages 5–11 have been infected with COVID-19 in the US, 8,300 have been hospitalized, and at least 170 have died. COVID-19 is now the eighth-leading killer of children in the 5-11 age group. About one-third of the hospitalized children were sick enough to be admitted to intensive care units.

Almost 10 percent of children with mild symptoms may have lingering problems months after the infection has resolved. And at least 2,300 children ages 5 to 11 have developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) following infection.

Pfizer’s vaccine is safe and effective for children 5-11

According to Pfizer, clinical trials showed its vaccine was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 among 5- to-11-year-old children. After the second dose, children developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults. Medical experts believe the benefits of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children 5-11 outweigh any known risks.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is the same formulation for all age groups. Children ages 5-11 receive a 10-microgram dose of the vaccine versus 30 micrograms for ages 12 and older. It’s crucial that children get the dosage that is right for their age. Unlike antibiotics, vaccines are not determined by weight but by age instead. Younger children will also need to get a second shot three weeks later. Children who turn 12 within 21 days after the first shot should receive the 30 mcg dose for their second shot. They will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose. At this time, there is no information about whether a booster dose will be recommended for this age group in the future.

COVID-19 vaccines have been used under the most intensive safety monitoring in US history. Clinical trials of more than 2,200 children ages 5-11 found that the younger children experienced only mild side effects, typically more frequent after the second dose. The most common were pain at the injection site, fatigue and headache.

Tens of millions of the larger doses have been given safely to Americans 12 and older. One very rare serious side effect has come to light: heart inflammation. Cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported following vaccination with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. These rare reactions have occurred primarily in young men or teen boys, usually after the second dose, and they tend to recover quickly. To put the risk in context, doctors say COVID-19 infection can cause more severe heart inflammation than what has been reported as a side effect of the vaccine. No cases were reported during the clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11. Experts believe the protection offered to children between the ages of 5 and 11 by the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine “clearly outweighs” the risk of myocarditis or pericarditis. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no evidence among clinical trial participants or the millions who have received the COVID-10 vaccines since authorization that the vaccine can lead to loss of fertility or affect puberty.

Vaccinating children will benefit everyone

The COVID-19 vaccination will not only protect your child from getting COVID-19, but vaccinating children could have profound effects for society more broadly.

For every million doses given to children ages 5 to 11, the CDC estimates that it would prevent about 58,000 cases and 226 hospitalizations in that group. Immunizing these children is expected to prevent about 600,000 new cases from November 2021 to March 2022. And rising immunity may reduce the chances that young children will transmit the virus to vulnerable adults in their families and communities.

Vaccinations of younger children are also likely to help keep schools open. According to data presented at the CDC committee meeting, virus outbreaks forced about 2,300 schools to close between early August and October, affecting more than 1.2 million students.

The American Academy of Family Physicians believes the vaccine will help children emotionally and socially. The pandemic stalled routine immunizations, widened education gaps, and escalated rates of anxiety and depression among children. Vaccination will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and help society return to pre-pandemic normality.

Getting your child vaccinated is quick, easy, and currently free

The vaccine is currently completely free regardless of immigration and insurance status, and it’s quick and easy for your child to get. PeaceHealth offers vaccine appointments by telephone and online scheduling. Check out state vaccination pages to learn more about getting a vaccine in your community.

More facts about the vaccine for children 5-11

Download our two-page fact sheet about the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11. If you still have questions about vaccinating your child, talk to your child’s pediatrician to learn more and make a decision that is best for your family.

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