The FDA authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 for the first time. A CDC panel is meeting Friday and Saturday to decide whether to recommend them.
Why it matters
To date, preschoolers and infants haven’t been able to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
If the CDC panel recommends the vaccine, and the CDC director signs off, vaccines will become available to children as young as 6 months in the coming days.
The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for . The move comes just ahead of a two-day meeting of scientific advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will vote on whether to recommend Pfizer’s and Moderna’s small-dose vaccines.
You can watch the meeting on the CDC’s webcast link. It began earlier today at 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET and is scheduled to run until 11:45 a.m. PT/2:45 p.m. ET. On Saturday, it will run from 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET until 10:30 a.m. PT/1:30 p.m. ET.
If the CDC panel votes to recommend either or both vaccines, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to accept the recommendation, and shots will become available to younger children in the coming days. The White House said earlier this month that, pending FDA and CDC approval, vaccines for the youngest age group would be available the week of June 20.
Moderna’s two-shot vaccine has been authorized for children 6 months through 5 years old. Each dose is 25 micrograms, one-fourth of each dose for adults.
Pfizer’s vaccine is slightly different: It’s a three-shot regimen intended for kids 6 months through 4 years old. Each dose is 3 micrograms, one-tenth of each dose for adults.
“Many parents, caregivers and clinicians have been waiting for a vaccine for younger children and this action will help protect those down to 6 months of age,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in an announcement. “As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death.”
Also on Friday, the FDA authorized Moderna’s vaccine for kids 12 to 17, and also signed off on a half-dose for children 6 to 11. (Currently, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is the only one available to kids and teens under 18.)
Here’s what to know about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters for infants, kids and teens.
When will COVID vaccines be available for children under 5?
Covid vaccinations for children between 6 months and 5 years old could begin as early as June 21, according to the White House, but availability will likely vary from state to state — and even from clinic to clinic.
It also depends on whether parents want Moderna’s two-dose vaccine or Pfizer’s three-dose version, as pediatricians, pharmacies and community health centers may not have equal supplies of both.
Though states can start preordering doses on Friday, the vaccine won’t ship until final FDA authorization, expected this weekend.
“We’re going to ship doses out as fast as possible,” White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters at a press briefing earlier in June. “We’re going to make sure that supply is always meeting demand. And we’re going to do everything we can to make it easy for providers and parents alike to get their kids vaccinated.”
How old do you have to be to get a COVID-19 vaccine now?
Currently only children 5 and older are eligible for vaccination in the US, and only for a lower dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals 12 and older receive two 30-microgram doses, while those 5 to 11 receive two 10-microgram shots administered three weeks apart.
If the FDA and CDC support recent committee recommendations, though, parents of children as young as 6 months will have two options:
- A Moderna vaccine that would be available for children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years old. The 25mg vaccine is given in two doses, each a quarter-strength of the company’s vaccine for adults.
- A Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids 6 months old up to age 5. The 3mg vaccine is given in three shots, each one-tenth the strength of Pfizer’s vaccine for people age 12 and up. The first two shots are three weeks apart, and a third dose is given eight weeks after the second.
The FDA has also authorized, as well as Moderna’s vaccine for children 6-11, given as a two-dose regimen at half the adult strength.
If recommended by the CDC, Moderna’s would be the second COVID-19 vaccine option for kids and teens. Currently, Pfizer-BioNTech is the only one that’s authorized for anyone under 18.
When can my kid get a booster?
Most kids ages 5 and older are currently eligible for a single booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at least five months after their second primary dose. Immunocompromised kids are eligible for their first booster at least three months after their last vaccine.
In March, the FDAfor children 12 and older with compromised immune systems.
Children’s booster shots are available only at locations where the low-dose Pfizer vaccine for kids is in stock. Call your pediatrician or local health clinic for a recommendation. You can use this vaccine finder link to find a location near you.or
“Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement in May. “We must continue to increase the number of children who are protected.”
Is the COVID vaccine safe for kids?
COVID vaccine side effects in children 5 to 11 are mostly mild and similar to those adults may experience, according to the CDC, including soreness at the injection site, fever, muscle soreness, nausea and fatigue.
The CDC reported in December 2021 that it had reviewed reports on more than 8 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine given to kids 5 to 11, and found the children’s immune systems responded well to the vaccine with only common, mild side effects.
On June 15, a 21-person panel at the FDA voted unanimously that the benefits of Moderna’s vaccines “outweigh its risks for use in infants and children 6 months through 5 years of age.”
Almost immediately after, the committee made the same recommendation about Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 6 months through 4 years old.
Inflammation of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis, and of the muscle’s outer lining, called pericarditis, are rare and typically mild side effects linked to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, mostly in adolescent males and young men ages 12 to 29. (Myocarditis can also occur after infection with COVID-19.)
In one study, the CDC said that only 54 recipients out of a million males ages 12 to 17 experienced myocarditis following their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine.
Do kids even need a COVID vaccine or booster?
Children are more likely to experience a milder illness than adults, but some have become extremely sick: The omicron wave of COVID-19 was specifically impactful on children and led to an increase in juvenile hospitalizations. Between December 2021 and February 2021, nearly 90% of children 5 to 11, who were hospitalized were unvaccinated, according to the CDC.
Thirty percent of those children had no underlying medical conditions that would have made them more susceptible to more serious complications.
In addition, kids 5 to 11 who have COVID-19 have a higher risk of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a rare but potentially serious complication that can involve inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and other organs.
Even a mild case of COVID-19 can disrupt a child’s ability to socialize or attend school, and kids can pass the infection to more vulnerable family or community members. As of February 2022, about 75% of children and adolescents have had COVID-19, according to the CDC.
More than 2 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in children 4 years old or younger in the US, according to the CDC, resulting in 442 deaths.
Do I need to give consent for my child to get vaccinated?
Parents generally need to consent to children receiving medical care, including Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is especially true for younger children.
However, depending on which state you live in, there may be a legal precedent for teens and other kids to request the vaccine without parental permission.
Tennessee’s vaccine director, Michelle Fiscus, was fired in August, allegedly in part for sending out a memo detailing the state’s “mature minor doctrine,” which explains how minors may seek medical care without the consent of their parents.
My child has allergies. Can they get the vaccine?
Yes, though you might be asked to stick around the waiting room so health care providers can monitor them for (extremely rare) allergic reactions that can occur after any vaccination.
“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,” said Dr. Anne Liu, an infectious disease specialist with Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
Children who have been prescribed an EpiPen for any reason should bring it to their vaccine appointment, Liu added.
As with adults, children with an allergy to an ingredient in Pfizer’s COVID-19 shouldn’t take it. You can find a list of ingredients in Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 5 to 11 on the FDA’s fact sheet.
Can my child get their COVID-19 shot at the same time as other vaccines?
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.