Which COVID-19 Vaccines Are Authorized for Children?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend children ages 5 to 11 years old receive the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. The adult version of the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children aged 12 to 17 to help protect against COVID-19.
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COVID-19 Vaccines For Children
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for children 5 years of age and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric COVID-19 Vaccine, for children ages 5 through 11 years, has the same active ingredients as the vaccine given to adults, except it is one-third of the dose.
Additionally, there have been smaller needles designed specifically for children. Similar to the normal vaccination regimen, children are recommended to receive 2 shots, 21 days apart in the muscle of the upper arm. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine does not contain eggs, preservatives, latex, or metals. A full list of ingredients in the vaccine can be found here.
There are currently three main COVID-19 vaccines that are being administered to adults in the U.S. However, not all of these vaccines are approved for children. The chart below shows which COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for various age groups.
COVID-19 Vaccines Authorized for Children
|Groups authorized to get vaccinated||Pfizer-BioNTech||Moderna||J&J / Janssen|
|4 years and under||No||No||No|
|5–11 years old||Yes||No||No|
|12–17 years old||Yes||No||No|
|18 years and older||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Safety of COVID-19 Vaccination for Children
COVID-19 vaccines are monitored for safety through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System even after they are authorized or approved. Before authorizing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children, scientists conducted robust clinical trials to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Below we explain the data on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination for children.
Clinical trial data evaluating the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine for children reported 90.7% effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in children 5 through 11, which is comparable to the effectiveness in adults. This means that the vaccine is highly effective, as 90% of children who get vaccinated will not present with symptoms of COVID-19.
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The clinical trial included approximately 3,100 children and there were no serious adverse events related to the vaccine, including anaphylaxis or myocarditis. Mild side effects for younger children were significantly less common, with 6.5% of younger children experiencing fever in clinical trials of the vaccine, compared to 17.2% of 16 to 25-year-olds.
Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccination for Children
Just as with COVID-19 vaccination for adults, children may experience side effects after getting vaccinated. Even if you or your child experience mild side effects, you should still get the second dose of the vaccine unless your provider or doctor says not to. Side effects may include:
- Pain, redness, and/or swelling on the arm where they got their shot
- Muscle pain
Find a COVID-19 Vaccine for Children 5 Years and Older
The federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status. To find a COVID-19 vaccine for you or a child 5 years or older, you have several options:
- Check with your child’s healthcare provider about whether they offer COVID-19 vaccinations
- Check your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination walk-ins or appointments are available for children
- Contact your state, territorial, local, or tribal health department for more information
- Search vaccines.gov
- Text your ZIP code to 438829
- Call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you
COVID-19 Vaccines for Children Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Available data on COVID-19 vaccination can be confusing, and the rise of misinformation on the topic has led to skepticism for many parents. Below we summarize some of the most important information regarding COVID-19 vaccination for children.
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Are children even getting COVID-19?
Yes, children are getting infected with and spreading COVID-19 to others. To date, approximately 8,300 COVID-19 cases have resulted in hospitalization for children ages 5 to 11. As of Oct. 17, 691 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. in individuals less than 18 years of age, with 146 deaths in the 5 through 11 years age group.
These statistics, along with clinical trial data on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination for children, are why the FDA has granted an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 and older.
Can children get myocarditis from the COVID-19 vaccination?
Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle caused by an immune system response in the body. The risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 vaccination is low, and the American Heart Association recommends everyone get vaccination against COVID-19, even those with a history of heart disease, heart attack, or cardiovascular risk factors. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle that can occur after a viral infection as a result of an exaggerated immune response.
There have been reports of myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccination that have been predominantly in males aged 16-29 years. Experts think the immune response from the vaccine has the potential to cause this reaction. While these cases have been mild in severity, studies also have found the risk of myocarditis is greater from COVID-19 infection than from vaccination.
Should my child get vaccinated if they had COVID-19 or MIS-C?
The CDC recommends children who have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 infection still get vaccinated. This includes children who have a history of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) if they meet several criteria including:
- Clinical recovery
- At least 90 days have passed since their diagnosis
- Onset of MIS-C occurred before COVID-19 vaccination
- In an area of high or substantial community transmission
- Have increased risk for exposure to the virus
Even if they don’t meet all the criteria post-MIS-C, the CDC said vaccination may be considered. If your child does not meet all the criteria, you should speak with their doctor about whether vaccination is a good choice.
Clinical trial and monitoring data on COVID-19 vaccination for children show that the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks. At this time, children 5 years and older are recommended to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Ultimately, the choice to get vaccinated is a personal choice.
If you decide to get your child vaccinated, Mira can help you find an appointment at a healthcare provider near you. If you are looking for more general medical care, Mira can help with that too! Starting at an average of $25 per month, a membership with Mira can help you access affordable urgent care services, up to 80% off prescription drugs, and soon enough, virtual care appointments with a few easy clicks on your member health hub.
Alexis Bryan MPH, is a recent graduate of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is passionate about increasing access to care to improve health outcomes. Outside of work, she loves to travel, read, and pay too much attention to her plants.