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COVID-19 Vaccine Approved for Children 5-11

Published in Pediatrics, Media Releases

Author: Jill Amsberry, DO

500,000 Minnesotans Now Eligible

As a pediatrician, I want to be resource for parents who have questions about vaccinating their children. So I am sharing answers to some of the questions that I hear frequently.

When can parents/guardians schedule their child for the COVID-19 vaccine?

  • Thursday, Nov. 4
  • For ages 5 -11
  • Call CentraCare Connect at 320-200-3200

Appointments will be available at select locations including regional clinics based on availability to schedule.

Parents also can visit Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccine for Children and Teens to find a child or teen vaccine.

What’s different about this Pfizer COVID vaccine dose compared to the adult dose?

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 is the same as the adult vaccine but with a lower dose. For younger children, the vaccine is administered as a two-dose (10 micrograms) series, three weeks apart, much like the dose (30 micrograms) for adults and older children.

Why is there a different dose for kids?

Immune systems change with age — not body size.

In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, other immunizations also are scheduled and administered based on age and not weight. This is partially due to the fact that the body’s immune responses to vaccinations and infection are known to be different based on age. The 10-microgram dose gives the optimal immune response with minimal reactions in this age group.

What do the side effects look like for kids?

Children given the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had side effects similar to those experienced by adults. The most commonly reported side effects include:

  • Pain where the shot was given
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Less common side effects:

  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever
  • Joint pain

Side effects typically last 1 to 3 days. After your child is given a COVID-19 vaccine, he or she will be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes to see if he or she has an allergic reaction that requires treatment.

An extremely rare side effect is myocarditis or inflammation of the heart muscle. Having COVID-19 also can lead to this type of heart inflammation. COVID-19 infection is much more likely to cause myocarditis in children, especially children who develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome, than the vaccine.

It isn’t recommended that you give your child an over-the-counter pain reliever before vaccination to prevent side effects. But it’s OK to giveafter your child gets a COVID-19 vaccine.

Why should my kid get vaccinated if they’re not likely to get very sick?

They’re not likely to get very sick, but it certainly can happen.

Between July 1 and Oct. 26, 2021, there have been more than 45,200 pediatric COVID-19 cases and more than 300 children hospitalized in Minnesota. Serious cases can even occur in healthy children.

Hospitalizations aren’t the only risk, though. Kids can get long COVID, complications from the virus that still aren’t well understood and can last for months or longer after initial symptoms have subsided.

Not all the effects of COVID-19 are related to physical health. This is now the third school year that has been interrupted by COVID-19, with kids having to do school from home due to case surges or quarantines. Data shows that this is negatively affecting kids’ test scores and their mental health.

Getting kids vaccinated also is an important component of bringing the pandemic under control.

What did the trials look like for the Pfizer vaccine in this age group?

The clinical trials for 5 to 11-year-olds looked a lot like the trials for 12 to 15-year-olds.

Pfizer included 2,268 kids in its trial in the 5 to 11 age group. Two-thirds of them got the Pfizer vaccine in two doses, three weeks apart; while one third got placebo injections. Data show kids who got the vaccine had a strong immune response.

What about kids younger than five?

Vaccine trials are underway for kids in the 6-month to 4-year age range.

How should I talk to my kids about getting vaccinated?

Being open and honest is key. Make sure kids know the vaccine might hurt a little, and they might not feel great for a day or two, with aches or a fever, but that those symptoms will go away — and that the symptoms don’t mean they’re sick — they mean the vaccine is working.

If my child had COVID already, do they need the vaccine?

Yes, natural immunity from previous infections fades and the vaccine will help protect your child from getting COVID again. Plus, getting fully vaccinated will help prevent serious illness or hospitalization if they do get infected again with SARS-C0V-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Does this mean my kid can stop wearing a mask?

It does take time for the immune system to do its work. For mRNA vaccines like the one available to children now, it will take more than six weeks after the first doses of the vaccine to develop immunity.

The vaccines available to kids are incredibly effective, but no vaccine is 100% protective. While COVID-19 continues to spread in our communities, we recommend continued mask wearing to help protect yourself while also helping to protect those more vulnerable to the disease. As more of the population gets vaccinated, we remain hopeful for a time when we can all take our masks off again. Getting vaccinated helps us get closer to that time.

Can my child receive other vaccines at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines may be co-administered with the influenza or other vaccines during the same visit. However, if you are visiting a COVID-19 vaccination event, other vaccines will not be available. If you’re looking for your child to receive other vaccines, please schedule an appointment at a primary care clinic.