COVID-19 Vaccine and Kids

Infants and children 6 months of age and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting the vaccine will help cut down on the overall spread of COVID-19, including variants that potentially make the virus more infections or dangerous. 

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Parents might have questions about the vaccine for their children and what to expect. Here are some common questions and answers. 

What vaccine will my child receive?

UW Health uses the Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer is a mRNA vaccine and for infants 6 months to 4 years, requires a 3-dose series. For children 5 years of age and older, a two-dose series is required. The doses need to be given several weeks apart. 

Kids 5 to 11 years old will receive 10 micrograms of vaccine per dose, or one-third the amount of the 12-year-old and up Pfizer vaccine that is given to those age 12 and older. A smaller dose works just as well in this age group because their immune systems are stronger.  

Research has also shown the Pfizer vaccine decreased the risk of moderate to severe COVID-19 disease by 95% and reduced the risk of hospitalization by 100%.

Eligibility for booster doses depends on an individual’s age. Children age 5 to 17 years of age can receive a Pfizer-BioNTech booster at least 5 months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series.

Is the vaccine safe for kids?

The Pfizer vaccine is safe for infants 6 months of age and older. In clinical trials, thousands of youth participated to show that the vaccine is well-tolerated and safe for people. In addition, there were not any new or unexpected side effects or safety concerns for infants and kids. 

The vaccine has been studied carefully in children, with the data reviewed by the FDA, the CDC and expert panels that work with them. Given that the mRNA molecule in the Pfizer vaccine mimics a natural human process, experts say they are confident that the vaccines are safe for growing bodies. The American Academy of Pediatrics and UW Health physicians agree that children should get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.   

What do we know about the long-term effects of these vaccines on growing bodies?

Given that the mRNA molecule in the Pfizer vaccine mimics a natural human process, experts say they are confident that the vaccines are safe for growing bodies. In addition, there is no biological reason that the vaccine would affect puberty or fertility.

If kids are less likely to get sick from COVID-19, why do they need a vaccine?

While older adults are at a higher risk, severe illness in children should not be taken lightly. Children have needed hospital care for COVID-19. This is especially true for teenagers with underlying health conditions. 

Kids aren’t always the best at keeping distance and washing their hands, so even if a child has mild or no symptoms, they could spread the illness to others who are high-risk and who could get very sick or die 

Protection from the vaccine, along with following safety measures, also means that more students will be able to receive in-person instruction and participate in athletics, which are essential to the mental and physical health of children.

If you have questions about vaccinating your child contact their health care provider with your questions. There is a lot of misinformation out there that shouldn’t prevent someone from getting vaccinated.

Will the vaccine protect my child against new strains of the virus?

There will be ongoing study needed to monitor the effectiveness of the current vaccines against new strains that may develop. It is common for there to be some decrease in immune response, the vaccine is still largely protective. An important step in preventing new strains is to ensure as many people as possible get the vaccine. The more people who get sick – even mildly – with COVID-19, the more opportunity for the virus to continue to mutate. 

My child is 11-years-old and soon will be 12, should we wait to get the larger dose or is it better to get the smaller dose right away?

If your child is eligible to get the vaccine, get it when you can. Do not wait until they turn 12. The virus isn’t going away anytime soon, and different variants could potentially make the virus more infections or dangerous. The vaccine greatly reduces the chance of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 and reduces the likelihood of getting infected in the first place and passing the infection to others. 

If your child has a birthday after their first dose but before their second, they will receive the vaccines appropriate for their age on the day of vaccination.

My child is bigger than most 12-year-olds, does weight and height make a difference for the vaccine dose they receive?

The appropriate dosage is best determined by a child’s age, not their size. Be sure to schedule your child’s vaccine based on their age.

My child already had COVID-19. Should they have the vaccine?

There is not enough information to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again, and some people have been infected more than once, especially if their initial infection was mild. Therefore, we do advise vaccination even if someone has previously been diagnosed  

It is also important to get vaccinated with schools reopened and the highly contagious Delta variant still a threat. In addition, September was the worst month for new COVID-19 cases and deaths among children in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

If someone is currently infected with COVID-19 it is recommended that they wait until they have recovered (no symptoms) from illness and are no longer required to isolate (10 days after symptoms began). After that period, they can receive the vaccination. 

Do I need to accompany my child to the vaccination?

No, but a parent or legal guardian will need to give consent. For vaccines administered with UW Health, we can be given consent over the phone and the consent covers both doses.

What should my child expect at the COVID-19 vaccination appointment?

After checking in, they will be asked some questions about their health. The shot will be administered into the arm. After receiving the shot, they will be monitored for 15 minutes to ensure no adverse reactions. They will also receive a card indicating when they received the vaccine and information about the vaccine.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? Are there any different side effects for kids?

Mild or moderate side effects for both adults and kids include tiredness, nausea, muscle pain, chills, fever, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and headache. Adverse events are more common after the second dose. For children three years of age and younger, side effects may also include irritability or crying, sleepiness and loss of appetite. These side effects are a sign that the immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do – building up protection to the disease. 

If side effects do appear after the vaccination, what can I use to treat them?

It is fine to treat side effects with over-the-counter pain medicine. Either ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be given, as long as the child hasn’t had previous reactions to these medications. 

Should my child stay home from school after the COVID-19 vaccine?

If they are feeling well there is no need to limit activities. If they have a fever, they should stay home. 

After receiving both COVID-19 vaccine doses, can my child stop wearing a mask?

No. it is important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask while indoors, frequent hand washing and staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Where can I learn more information?
Should my child get a third dose or a booster of COVID-19 vaccine?

Third dose
The CDC is recommending a third dose for immunosuppressed patients that are age 5 and older to achieve the same levels of immunity as healthy individuals. Immunosuppressed children and teens age 5 to 17 years old can receive a third dose of Pfizer-BioNTech 28 days after they receive their second dose.

Boosters are authorized for children and teens age 5 or older to address waning immunity. Over time, it is common for all vaccine recipients’ immune response to lose some strength. Boosters are given later to “remind” the immune system to fight the illness. Children and teens age 5-17 years old can only receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at least 5 months after completing the primary COVID-19 vaccination series.