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COVID-19 Vaccines & Children: What You Should Know

Updated Nov. 3, 2021
All children age 5 and up are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. After extensive research and review, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 on Nov. 2, 2021. The CDC had previously authorized vaccines for children ages 12 and up.

Children ages 5 to 11 can now receive two modified doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Each dose is approximately a third of the size of the dose given to children age 12 and older and doses are delivered using a smaller needle designed for young children. Child doses are kept in smaller, color-coded vials to avoid potential mix-ups with doses for older children and adults. The two vaccine doses for children ages 5 to 11 will be administered three weeks apart.

The COVID-19 vaccine for children is free and safe. It has been endorsed by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“Sharing this life-saving vaccine with our children is a huge step forward and provides us all with more confidence and optimism about the future,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, said in a news release. “Pediatricians are eager to participate in the immunization process and talk with families about this vaccine.”

In Connecticut, parents and guardians can contact their child’s pediatrician to schedule a vaccine or reach out to a local hospital, pharmacy or clinic administering the vaccine in order to make an appointment. It is anticipated that local schools may also notify parents about on-site COVID-19 vaccine clinics in their school districts. The state of Connecticut has set up an online portal ct.gov/covidvaccine — to help parents and guardians make vaccine appointments for children. The CDC also has an online portal for vaccine information and appointments at vaccines.gov.

Supplies of COVID-19 vaccines for children are currently being distributed across the U.S. There may be some brief delays therefore, in scheduling child vaccine appointments. Officials expect the vaccination program for children ages 5 to 11 to be fully operational sometime during the week of Nov. 8.

COVID-19 vaccines have undergone – and continue to undergo – the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Vaccination trials with children ages 5 to 11 showed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, according to the CDC. The vaccine’s side effects were mild, with the most common side effect being a sore arm.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has suggested that Connecticut’s school mask mandate could eventually be lifted if there is widespread vaccination of school-age children.

If children are low-risk for getting COVID-19, why do they need to be vaccinated?

Most children with COVID-19 experience mild or no symptoms. But in some cases children can get severely ill. COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months. The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer of 2021. During a 6-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold, according to the CDC. Vaccination, along with other preventative measures, can protect children from COVID-19.

Data gathered during COVID-19 vaccine trials with children showed that for every nine children vaccinated, one COVID infection would be prevented. To date, nearly two million children ages 5 to 11 in the United States are known to have been infected with the virus, and 8,300 have been hospitalized, according to The New York Times. A third of those hospitalized were admitted to intensive care units, and at least 170 have died. More than 120,000 children in the United States have lost a parent or caregiver to the disease.

The vaccination of children age 5 and up is also a preventive measure for others. Adolescents and children can transmit COVID-19, so having them receive a vaccination reduces the potential spread of infection among family members, friends, schoolmates and the general public.