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COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

| Healthy You | Safety

A child receives a vaccination from a healthcare provider

Lower dose versions of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now available for children 6 months and older.

The CDC recommends that all children ages 6 months and older be vaccinated against COVID-19 with a low dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC has also approved the use of the Moderna vaccine in children under 18. Previously, the Moderna vaccine was only approved for adults 18 and older, and the Pfizer vaccine was approved for children 5 and older. Here's what parents need to know about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, the possible side effects, and the benefits of vaccinating.

COVID-19's risk to children is not zero

According to the CDC, children infected with COVID-19 are less likely to develop severe illness than adults, but they are still at risk. While hospitalization among children is low compared with adults, it skyrocketed and reached a pandemic high following the emergence of the omicron variant. About one in three children hospitalized with COVID-19 were admitted to the intensive care unit, similar to the adult rate. COVID-19 is the fourth- or fifth-leading cause of death for children aged 0 to 19, according to a CDC analysis.

While the vaccines won't offer total protection against COVID-19 infection, they're highly likely to make any symptoms significantly less severe—keeping your child from needing hospitalization. Unvaccinated people still have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 and experience more severe illness and complications.

Parents now have options

There are now two vaccine options for children, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Both are mRNA vaccines and contain the same ingredients in the adult versions—only the dosage size is different. For children, the dosage amount is based on age on the day of vaccination, not on the size or weight of the child.

The Pfizer vaccine for children ages 6 months to 4 years old consists of three doses: Each dose is three micrograms (one-tenth of the dose for adults). The first two doses are spaced three weeks apart, and the third one is given at least two months after the second.

The Moderna vaccine for kids 6 months to 5 years old is made up of two doses spaced four weeks apart, and each one is 25 micrograms or one-quarter of the adult version. The Moderna vaccine has also been approved as an alternative vaccine for children between 6 and 17. Children 6 to 11 years old will receive two 50 milligram doses spaced four weeks apart, while youths 12 and older will receive two 100 milligram doses (the same as adults) also spaced four weeks apart.

(at time of administration)
Dosage (per shot) # Shots (Primary Series)
Waiting period between shots

Pfizer Brand

6 months to 4 years

3 mg


3 weeks between shots 1 and 2, at least 2 months between shots 2 and 3

5 to 11 years

10 mg


3 weeks between shots 1 and 2
Booster recommended after 5 months

12 to 15 years

30 mg


3 weeks between shots 1 and 2
Booster recommended after 5 months


30 mg


3 weeks between shots 1 and 2
Booster recommended after 5 months

Moderna Brand

6 months to 5 years

25 mg


4 weeks between shots 1 and 2

6 to 11 years

50 mg


4 weeks between shots 1 and 2

12 to 17 years

100 mg


4 weeks between shots 1 and 2


100 mg


4 weeks between shots 1 and 2
Booster recommended after 5 months

The CDC recommends a third primary dose of the Moderna vaccine for moderately or severely immunocompromised children. An additional primary dose of the Pfizer vaccine is not recommended for immunocompromised children 6 months to 4 years old.

Children are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the primary series of shots (either two or three shots, depending on age and vaccine brand).

The vaccines are safe and effective

COVID-19 vaccines are under the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Clinical trials of several thousand children found the vaccines safe and effective. Both vaccines protect against severe disease (which can result in hospitalization or dying) and also protect against multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS), a rare yet life-threatening complication of COVID-19 in children. After completing their primary series, children developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels as strong as teenagers and adults. Medical experts believe the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccines outweigh any known risks.

Preliminary data shows that Pfizer was roughly 75% effective at preventing illness from omicron for children aged 6 months to 2 years, compared to 51% for Moderna's series. Pfizer's vaccines were around 82% effective against omicron for children ages 2 to 4, compared to Moderna's effectiveness of 37% for kids aged 2 to 5. But experts say that data may be misleading. Much of the Pfizer data was collected before omicron, and more Moderna data was collected after omicron.

Experts say the vaccines' side effects are relatively minimal and short-lived, especially in small children compared to older children and teenagers. Children experienced mild side effects more frequently after the second dose. The most common were pain at the injection site, fatigue, and Irritability. Some children experienced fevers, although at a rate no higher than fevers caused by routine vaccinations.

Rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported following vaccination with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. These reactions have occurred primarily in young men or teenage boys, usually after the second dose, and they tend to recover fully within 90 days. 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.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the COVID-19 vaccine will not cause infertility or disturb puberty. There is no evidence among clinical trial participants or the millions who have received the vaccines since authorization that the vaccine can lead to loss of fertility or affect puberty.

The bottom line is that both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in children at 6 months. Experts say both vaccines are safe and well-tolerated in children, with the difference being in how many doses are given and the amount of active ingredient in each shot. They also say that side effects are mild and typically resolve within a few days.

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 on society more broadly.

Vaccinating your children will help keep schools and daycares open and lessen the need for classes to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure. Rising immunity will reduce the chances that young children will transmit the virus to vulnerable children and adults in their families and communities who cannot get vaccinated.

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

Since we don't know when the next wave of COVID-19 may hit us, and it takes up to two months for children to become fully vaccinated, medical experts recommend getting your child vaccinated as soon as possible.

There are currently no out-of-pocket costs for the vaccine or booster shot, though your insurer may pay the cost of administering the vaccine, and it's quick and easy for your child to get. PeaceHealth offers vaccine appointments by telephone (find a location) and online scheduling through My PeaceHealth. You can also find vaccine locations by zip code at by calling 1-800-232-0233 or by texting your zip code to 438829.

More facts about the vaccine for children

Download our two-page fact sheet about the COVID-19 vaccine for children. If you still have questions about vaccinating your child, talk to your child's pediatrician to learn more and decide what is best for your family.