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COVID-19 Vaccine Approved for Children 6 Months and Older

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Jill Amsberry,DO

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?

Parents now can schedule their children ages 6 months and older for the COVID-19 vaccine by calling CentraCare Connect at 320-200-3200. Appointments will be available at select locations including CentraCare Plaza Pediatrics and regional clinics based on availability to schedule.

Parents also can visit Vaccines.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccine.

What vaccines now are available for my child?

We now have two different vaccines available for children 6 months and older.

The Pfizer vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years is a three-dose (3 microgram) series. Dose 2 is given 3 weeks after dose 1. Dose 3 is given 8 weeks after dose 2.

The Pfizer vaccine for children 5–11 years is a two-dose (10 microgram) series given 3 weeks apart.

A Pfizer vaccine for children 12 years and older is a two-dose (30 microgram) series given 3 weeks apart.

The Moderna vaccine available for children 6 months to 6 years is a two-dose (25 microgram) series. Dose 2 is given 4 weeks after the dose 1. The Moderna vaccine for children 6 to 11 years is a two-dose (50 microgram) series given 4 weeks apart. The Moderna vaccine for children 12 years and older is a two-dose (100 microgram) series given 4 weeks apart.

Note: At this time, CentraCare is only offering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination for people younger than 18.

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 dose for each age group gives the optimal immune response with minimal reactions.

What did the trials look like for the vaccines in the youngest age group?

Pfizer’s clinical trial included 1,400 children. Antibodies after the third dose exceeded adults.

Moderna’s clinical trial included 6,300 children. Antibodies after the second dose were the same or exceeded those in adults. Efficacy was consistent with vaccine effectiveness for adults during Omicron.

Both vaccines are expected to decrease hospitalizations and ICU stays among this age group.

What do the side effects look like for kids?

The most commonly reported side effects for children 6 months to 2 years include:

  • Fussiness
  • Sleepiness

The most commonly reported side effects for children 2 years and older include:

  • Pain where the shot was given
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Less common side effects for all children:

  • Fever (more common with Moderna)
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • 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 of vaccination in adolescents 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. This side effect has not been found in children less than 12 years of age.

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

Children are less likely to get very sick, but serious cases can and do occur, even in health children.

Since 2020, 442 children ages 0-4 years old have died from COVID-19. COVID remains a top 10 leading cause of death for kids. During the most recent Omicron surge, hospitalization due to COVID disease among kids <5 years of age here higher than in any other child age group. In fact, hospitalizations were higher than what we’ve seen in previous flu peaks. Of toddler’s hospitalized, 25% were sick enough to need care in the ICU. Around half of children with severe illness have no underlying medical conditions.

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.

We also know that our littlest kids are less able to use the layering measures to help keep them safe, such as masking and distancing.

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

Does my child need to get vaccinated if they just had the disease?

As of February 2022, 75% of children have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. Getting a vaccine, even for children that had disease, helps to strengthen their immune response and protection. Recent studies have shown that, though there is some temporary protection after being infected with COVID, the protection is often short-lived. In fact, some children failed to develop any immune response to disease. Reinfection should be expected as COVID continues to quickly change.

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. We encourage families to talk with their primary care providers on how they can help infants and toddlers feel more comfortable at the time of their vaccination.

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 6-14 weeks after the first doses of the vaccine to develop immunity.

The vaccines available to kids are incredibly effective at preventing severe disease, but no vaccine is 100% protective. While COVID-19 continues to spread in our communities, we recommend continuing to follow the CDC guidance on masking recommendations for children ages 2 years and older. Masking helps protect your child as well as those more vulnerable around them. As more of the population gets vaccinated, we remain hopeful for a time when we no longer must think about when/if we should be wearing masks.

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

COVID-19 vaccines may be co-administered with other vaccines during the same visit. If you’re looking for your child to receive other vaccines, please schedule an appointment at a primary care clinic.