COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ for Children Ages 5-11Healthier, Happy Lives Blog

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COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 are now planned.

On November 2, the Centers for Disease Control approved COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 and up. Pediatrician offices, pharmacies, and health systems are preparing to bring Pfizer BioNTech vaccines to children across the country. We reached out to childhood infectious disease experts Yvonne Maldonado, MD and Grace Lee, MD for answers to parents’ frequently asked questions about the vaccines.

Q. Why should my child be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Children need the protection that vaccination offers. More than 6 million children in the US have become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus since the pandemic began. Some are seriously ill and even died as a result of COVID-19.

In addition to directly affecting their health, the pandemic has disrupted the children’s education, friendships, and relationships with their extended families. Vaccines make it safer for children to participate in many activities essential to their wellbeing and growth, including attending school and spending time with loved ones.

Children are a large part of the population. Vaccination will help control the virus and prevent new variants of the virus from developing.

Q. How is COVID-19 vaccination different for children under 12?

Children aged 5-11 receive a smaller dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine with smaller needles. The dose for these children is 10 micrograms, one third of the dose used in adolescents and adults. Children’s immune systems are more responsive than adults, and clinical studies have found that the lower dose elicits a robust immune response.

Children receive two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine three weeks apart, at the same time as for older age groups.

Vaccination studies for children under 5 years with even smaller doses are ongoing. Pfizer representatives have announced that they will deliver results for the youngest children later this year. The Food and Drug Administration and CDC will then review the results, with a possible approval for infants in early 2022.

Q. How do we know the vaccine is safe and effective for children?

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has been studied in a clinical study involving more than 2,200 children ages 5-11, including approximately 150 children at Stanford. The study followed the same process as the clinical studies used for all other childhood vaccines.

In the study, the COVID-19 vaccination produced a similar immune response as in clinical studies in adults. The vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection in children.

Children in the study had only mild to moderate side effects that resolved within a few days. Side effects included redness and swelling, fatigue, headache, muscle and / or joint pain, chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, and decreased appetite. These side effects are consistent with the body’s normal responses to the vaccination and indicate that the immune system is doing its job. Cardiac side effects seen in some adolescent boys who received the vaccine were not seen in children under 12 years of age.

The side effects of vaccination are much less severe than the spectrum of symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Although most children with COVID-19 have a mild illness, thousands have been hospitalized across the country and hundreds have died. Getting vaccinated is much safer than getting COVID-19.

Clinical trials with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are currently ongoing.

On November 2, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) unanimously recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. Dr. Grace Lee, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Practice Innovation and Infectious Disease Physician at Stanford Children’s Health and ACIP Chair, explained the recommendation.

Q. How can I schedule a COVID-19 vaccination for my child?

Pediatrician practices across the country have been planning to make vaccines quickly available for several weeks. Make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician.

Parents can also schedule their child for a vaccination appointment through Stanford Children’s Health at covidvaccine.stanfordchildrens.org or search for appointments in their community through the California Department of Health at https://myturn.ca.gov/.

If your child hasn’t had a flu shot this year, the COVID-19 vaccine can be given at the same time as any other child’s vaccine, including the flu shot. A flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and over.

Q. After receiving their vaccines, do children need to take precautions to prevent the virus from spreading in school?

While the vaccinations are very effective, especially in preventing severe COVID-19, they do not provide perfect protection.

Until the pandemic is largely under control, we must use all available means to reduce the spread of the virus in schools and other public facilities, including vaccinating everyone who is entitled to the vaccine, wearing masks indoors for everyone over 2 years and in some cases outdoors, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving school ventilation when possible, and other mitigation measures.

Reducing the spread of the virus keeps our communities healthy and gives the virus fewer opportunities to mutate in ways that lead to dangerous new variants.

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