Health care provider prepares to give a COVID vaccine to a child under age 5

Kids Under Age 5 Now Eligible for COVID Vaccines

The youngest Americans can get immunized against COVID, as children ages six months and up are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Federal health officials recently signed off on the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for children in this age group – marking an end to months of waiting by parents and families.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be used in children ages six months to four years old and for the Moderna vaccine to be used in children ages six months to 17 years old. Prior to these authorizations, only children over the age of five years old were eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The authorizations come after months of clinical trials have ensured that the vaccines are safe and effective amongst this population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since recommended the use of these vaccines in young children.

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Everyone ages six months old and up is eligible to receive a COVID vaccine.

How many doses is the COVID-19 vaccine for children?

It depends on the vaccine manufacturer and the child’s age.

Pfizer vaccine:

  • Children ages six months to four years need three doses, with 3 micrograms (mcg) in each dose
  • Children ages five years old to 11 years need two doses, with 10 mcg in each dose
  • Children ages 11 years old to 17 years need two doses, with 30 mcg in each dose

Moderna vaccine:

  • Children ages six months to five years need two doses, with 25 mcg in each dose
  • Children ages six years to 11 years need two doses, with 50 mcg in each dose
  • Children ages 12 years to 17 years need two doses, with 100 mcg in each dose

Children who are immunocompromised may be able to receive an additional dose of the vaccine following their initial immunization. Talk with your health care provider to determine if your child is eligible.

Will children under age five years old need a booster dose?

The latest guidance has not revealed direction regarding booster doses for children under five years old. The CDC currently recommends one booster dose for everyone ages five years and older after completing their primary COVID vaccine series.

My child recently had COVID. How long should I wait to get them vaccinated?

Vaccination against COVID-19 is important even if you have already had COVID-19, as vaccination provides added protection against future illness. Check with your child’s doctor if they have been sick recently to determine an appropriate time to have them vaccinated against COVID.

The CDC estimates that 75% of children under age 11 years old had been infected with COVID-19 by February 2022.

Why should I get my young child vaccinated against COVID?

While the symptoms of a COVID infection in children can be less severe in children than in adults, it’s still important to get children vaccinated against COVID. Vaccination can prevent children from getting severely ill from COVID. During the winter of 2021 when the Omicron variant was prevalent, hospitalizations of children under age five years with COVID were five times higher than during the Delta variant wave, according to the CDC. Vaccination can also help prevent the development of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

Additionally, young children can easily transmit diseases, especially in daycare and preschool settings, that can then be spread to other, more susceptible individuals. Health experts are predicting another wave of COVID infections again this fall and winter when colder weather causes people to spend more time inside.

Vaccination can ensure children can continue to safely participate in daycare and school settings, as well as sport activities and playdates.

Where can I get my child vaccinated?

Pharmacies and pediatrician’s offices will be able to administer the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available. Check with your child’s health care provider and local pharmacy. COVID vaccines are available free of charge, regardless of health insurance status.

Find a vaccination location by visiting vaccines.gov.

James D. Grant, M.D., is chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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