COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 to 11: What to know about the omicron variant and more

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Anticipating that the , omicron, will be circulating in the US alongside delta this winter,  Wednesday to get more Americans fully vaccinated, including kids as young as 5, who are eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

For kids, the plan includes implementing more that keep children in school who have been exposed to COVID-19, without sending them home for 14 days to quarantine, through frequent testing and other public health measures. The CDC will release more information on such policies in the coming weeks, according to the White House. Another part of the Biden administration’s plan is launching “hundreds of family vaccination clinics” so kids can get vaccinated alongside their parents who are going in for a

In an , Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that even with variants as concerning as delta or omicron — which scientists will need to study for at least two more weeks to track how contagious or dangerous it is — vaccination still provides a level of protection against severe disease. 

“So this is a clarion call as far as I’m concerned of saying let’s put aside all of these differences that we have and say, ‘If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you’re fully vaccinated, get boosted, and get the children vaccinated also,'” Fauci said. 

Kids as young as 5 years old are now able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the beginning of November  for children ages 5 to 11. 

Pfizer’s vaccine for kids is one-third of a regular dose, a slightly different formula and . It was  after data showing an encouraging  was reviewed by an independent committee for the FDA. In an ongoing trial that tested the vaccine in about 3,100 children ages 5 to 11, no serious side effects were reported. As of Nov. 17, had received at least one shot, according to a White House estimate. 

“We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated, and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky  Nov. 2. “As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.” 

With many pharmacies, pediatricians’ offices, public health centers and clinics administering the coronavirus vaccine to kids under 12, here’s what to expect when getting your child the COVID-19 shot. 

Do young kids even need a COVID-19 vaccine? 

Children remain at low risk of severe COVID-19 disease and death compared with the adult population. (Of states that reported data to the , 0.1% to 2% of COVID-19 cases in children resulted in hospitalization.) But children can experience , including long COVID and . 

Kids ages 5 to 11 are also at least as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as adults are, according to data  — more than 1.detox 9 forever living million children in that age group have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic. According to CDC data from Dec. 1, have died from COVID-19 in the US. 

There are also racial disparities in how sick children get from COVID-19. Children ages 5 to 11 who are Black, Native American or Hispanic are three times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than white children, according to the presentation. Of children ages 5 to 11 hospitalized with COVID-19, about one in three will require an ICU admission.

The pandemic has had other effects on children, including mental and emotional tolls. In mid-October, the AAP, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association declared a , with children from communities of color being disproportionately affected. Given the role that in-person learning plays in a child’s development, the CDC prioritized  for students this fall, and it has 

Can children age 4 or younger get vaccinated?

Not yet.  that he expects vaccines to be available to children under 5 by early 2022. 

Everyone 5 and older can get vaccinated. It may have taken a few days for your local pharmacy or health clinic to get Pfizer’s vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 in stock, however, because it’s different from Pfizer’s vaccine for everyone else (more on that below). However, the program is up and running now and you should be . 

Kids have been eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for a while. The other mRNA vaccine, Moderna, and the only single-dose vaccine on the US market, Johnson & Johnson, aren’t .

Where can I get my child vaccinated for COVID-19? 

The COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 12 will be free regardless of immigration status, just like it is for adults. It will be available in pediatricians’ offices, doctor’s offices, public health clinics and places accessible to children. (Mass vaccination sites that provided COVID-19 shots to adults will not be used as part of the .) A good place to start would be calling your pediatrician or local health clinic for a recommendation on where to go. 

Parents may also to find a clinic that has the child vaccine available. 

How is Pfizer’s vaccine for young kids different?

Pfizer’s vaccine is one-third the dose of the vaccine given to everyone age 12 and older (but it’s still given in two shots, three weeks apart). The needle used to administer the vaccine will also be smaller. Additionally, the cap on the vial the vaccine comes in will be to avoid mix-ups. 

The formula of the vaccine also varies slightly from the formula for adults. Pfizer’s vaccine for kids can be stored in a fridge, making it easier to administer. For more information about Pfizer’s vaccine for younger children, . 

Should I worry about myocarditis? 

Myocarditis and pericarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, is a  linked to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and is mostly seen in adolescent males and men under 30. (Importantly, cases of myocarditis following vaccination have been mostly mild and gone away quickly. Myocarditis can occur after infection with a virus, including COVID-19.) In one study, that 54 kids out of one million males ages 12 to 17 experienced myocarditis following a second dose of Pfizer. In general, kids under 12 have a lower risk of myocarditis from other causes compared to adolescents, the CDC says, and the benefits of vaccinating for COVID-19 outweigh any known and potential risks. 

By contrast, kids ages 5 to 11 have a higher risk of , a potentially serious complication of COVID-19.

“The bottom line is that getting COVID is much riskier to the heart than anything in this vaccine, no matter what age or sex you have,” Dr. Matthew Oster said after a prior to the CDC’s recommendation. 

Side effects in kids ages 5 to 11 were mostly mild and similar to the side effects adults may experience after vaccination, . 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Do I need to give consent in order for my young child to get vaccinated? 

Yes, parents generally need to consent to their children receiving medical care, which will include Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is especially true for younger children. 

However, if you have a teenager or child old enough to express a desire to get a COVID-19 vaccine and you haven’t given consent, they may have legal precedent to seek one out, . 

In Tennessee, the rights of minors versus their parents when it comes to vaccine decisions came under the spotlight last summer when the state’s vaccine director, Michelle Fiscus, was , in part, for sending out a explaining Tennessee’s “,” which is the state’s writing on how minors may seek medical care without the consent of their parents in some cases. 

If my child is immunocompromised or has a health condition, can they get a third shot? 

A third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine isn’t authorized or recommended for immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11. Additionally, the  currently recommended for fully-vaccinated Americans are only for adults age 18 or older. No minor is eligible for a booster. 

If your child is at least 12 years old, “moderately or severely” immunocompromised and vaccinated with Pfizer, according to the CDC, they should get a third dose of Pfizer. Moderna is only authorized for people age 18 and older. Examples of include people receiving treatment for cancers in the blood or tumors, organ transplant recipients, stem cell transplant recipients, people with untreated or advanced HIV infection and people taking drugs that could suppress the immune response, per the CDC. 

Does Pfizer’s full FDA approval extend to kids?

The FDA’s approval of the vaccine by Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, only applies to people as young as 16 years old. While Pfizer remains the only vaccine authorized for use in kids as young as 5 years old, vaccinating that age group is still under emergency use authorization rather than total approval. This is because, along with other factors, full FDA approval requires data on how the vaccine fares . Pfizer’s vaccine was only authorized for  in May. 

This means that a that hinges on full approval of a coronavirus vaccine, such as the one , won’t apply to kids younger than 16 for a while.

My child has allergies. Can they get the vaccine?

“If the child has a history of anaphylaxis or other severe allergies, then the observation time after the injection may be 30 minutes instead of 15,” Dr. Anne Liu, an infectious disease specialist with Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, said in August. So you might be asked to stick around the waiting room with your child for an extra 15 minutes so health care providers can monitor vaccine recipients for the () allergic reaction that can occur after any vaccination. 

Additionally, Liu said, children who are prescribed an EpiPen for any reason should bring it to their vaccine appointment. 

As for adults, children with an allergy to an ingredient in Pfizer’s COVID-19 shouldn’t take it. Find a list of ingredients in Pfizer’s vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 on the . 

Can my child get the COVID-19 shot at the same time as other vaccines?

Yes, , your child may get other vaccines when they go in for their coronavirus shot without waiting 14 days between appointments. can be given to children and older. 

Correction, Oct. 25: A previous version of this story included a sentence implying incorrect information about available vaccines for children age 12 and older. Only Pfizer’s vaccine is currently available for kids ages 12 to 17.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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