Since the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, parents across the country have been asking, “when can children under 12 get the COVID-19 vaccine?” Now, with recent approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), parents finally have an answer, as some 28 million American children between the ages of 5 to 11 years old are now eligible to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced earlier this week that it is formally recommending the use of the Pfizer vaccine for that age group. This announcement followed a unanimous show of support from its panel of vaccine advisers. Support from the CDC marked the final regulatory step after the FDA issued its emergency use authorization last week.
With so many parents wondering whether their child needs to be vaccinated or is eligible for vaccination, we’ve put together some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding vaccines for children under 12.
When Can Children Under 12 Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
As of Tuesday, November, 2, the CDC has updated their COVID-19 vaccine guidance to include children between the ages of 5-11. Many providers plan to begin vaccinations as early as Wednesday, November 3. Federal health officials say doses should be even more widely available by the following week.
Do Children Under 12 Need the Vaccine?
It’s true that most cases of COVID-19 in children are mild, and that children rarely die from the disease. However, scientists and health officials recommending the shot emphasize that vaccination could prevent many infections, as well as disruptions to schooling, hospitalizations, and rare but severe complications of the disease.
Currently, more than 8,300 children aged 5-11 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 due to serious illness. According to the CDC, the number of children and adolescents admitted to the hospital increased nearly fivefold over the summer months amid the delta variant surge.
“Everything about this virus is unpredictable,” says Dr. David Kimberlin, an infectious disease pediatrician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “And we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves and to protect our children against what this virus is very capable of doing.”
Where Can I Get My Child Vaccinated?
Federal health officials have encouraged parents to check Vaccines.gov to find a vaccination location closest to their child with shots in stock. As supplies continue to be distributed around the country, more locations will be added in the coming days and weeks.
Vaccines for children under 12 will be available at many different locations, including but not limited to:
- Pediatricians’ offices
- Children’s hospitals
- Rural health clinics
- Certain school-based clinics
- Local community centers
In a recent survey conducted by the CDC, almost two-thirds of parents said they would prefer to get their child vaccinated at their regular doctor’s office if the choice was available.
Federal health officials have sought to recruit more of these providers to become COVID-19 vaccinators in recent weeks, though not all will be first in line to administer shots.
“The recently enrolled providers with a smaller patient base are less likely to get the vaccine in this first week when the minimum order is 300 doses. When the minimum order drops in the next week or so to 100 doses, I think some of those more newly enrolled providers would be able to get the vaccine,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers.
Will I Need To Pay for My Child’s Vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine is free for all U.S. residents, that includes adults and children under 12.
All vaccinators are required to administer shots at no out-of-pocket cost to patients and are prohibited from denying the vaccines to people without insurance.
Employers were previously required to provide paid time for their employees to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects that keep them from working. That said, it is unclear as to whether this benefit will extend to their children.
Currently, it is unclear how much the vaccine could cost on the other side of the pandemic. However, health insurance experts suspect people privately insured or on Medicare will still be able to get vaccinated at no cost.
Is the Vaccine for Children Under 12 Different Than Adults?
The Pfizer vaccine for children under 12 is slightly different than the one given to adults. Much like the adult shot, Pfizer’s vaccine for children is given in two doses, three weeks apart. Where the two differ is in the dosage. Each dose of the vaccine for children under 12 is just 10 micrograms, a third of the 30 microgram dose given to adolescents and adults.
The vaccines for children under 12 will also come in a new formulation that will help prolong its shelf life in pharmacy refrigerators. This will, in turn, help vaccinators draw up smaller doses when administering them to children. The pediatric shot also includes a new ingredient known as Tris buffer, which is regularly used to help stabilize vaccines and other medications.
Kid-sized Pfizer dose was “highly effective” at triggering the production of antibodies for the virus in clinical trials, and was more than 90% effective at preventing symptomatic disease.
“The manufacturing process of the mRNA active ingredient and the lipid nanoparticle is completely unchanged. The only change is in the formulation, which is the last step of the product manufacture,” Nicholas Warne, Pfizer’s vice president of pharmaceutical research and development, told the FDA’s outside vaccine advisers last month.
While there is no significant, substantial change in the vaccine for children under 12, many parents may wonder about any potential side effects their child may have.
Are There Any Side Effects?
In their clinical trials, the data collected by Pfizer suggests that younger children may experience fewer side effects than adolescents or young adults. Observed side effects during clinical trials included fever, redness around where the shot was given, with most symptoms being reported as “mostly mild to moderate, and short-lived.”
One of the biggest concerns surrounding a vaccine for children under 12 years of age was the concern for a condition known as myocarditis, a rare condition that causes inflammation of the heart muscles. Much of the FDA and CDC panels’ discussions focused on weighing the benefits of the vaccine against the potential risk of myocarditis. While the exact rate of occurrence of myocarditis in children between the ages of 5-11 is unknown, it is rare enough that zero cases occurred in the clinical trial. The CDC stated that the risk was “likely lower in younger children than adolescents.”
Pfizer’s clinical trials examined nearly 3,100 children between the ages of 5-11 who had received both shots. This trial, according to the FDA, was “larger than most studies typically used to license other vaccines for children.” Additionally, health officials have been monitoring more than 11 million adolescents and teens who are fully vaccinated and have found no new safety issues.
In short, the Pfizer vaccine for children under 12 is completely safe and remains the most effective way to help prevent the future spread of COVID-19. If you still have concerns about the safety of the vaccine for your child, speak to your doctor or pediatrician to learn more.
Will There Be Enough Vaccines for All the Families Who Want It?
According to the White House, the Biden administration has purchased enough of Pfizer’s vaccine for all 28 million eligible U.S. children.
Up to 15 million doses of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine are being shipped out in the first wave of deliveries, White House officials said, as vaccinators prepare for parents clamoring to get their children vaccinated.
In a CDC survey, 57% of parents of children aged 5 to 11 said they would “definitely” or “probably” get their child vaccinated.
Ten million of the first wave of doses are headed to sites planned out by local health officials. The remaining 5 million will be distributed through the CDC’s partnership with retail pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS.
If you have more questions about when children under 12 can get vaccinated, talk to your doctor or pediatrician to learn more about the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. It’s important to remember that vaccinations remain the most effective way to protect your children and those around them from COVID-19. In the meantime, it’s also important to review current CDC guidance to ensure you are doing everything you can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
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