COVID vax for children. Answers to your questions.

If you have children ages 5 to 11, you are aware that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has approved the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for this age group. In this recent article in the Austin American-Statesman, ARC Pediatrician Jacques Benun, MD, addressed many questions that parents might have about the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to being a pediatrician, Dr. Benun was the lead researcher on the part of the Pfizer trial conducted at ARC Clinical Research for this younger age group and is well-informed to discuss effectiveness, safety, and side effects of the vaccine.

How effective is this COVID-19 vaccine in children?

Pfizer has said the vaccine was more than 91% effective in the children who received it during the trials this summer. Pfizer enrolled 2,268 kids ages 5-11 for this trial. Two-thirds received the vaccine, one-third received a placebo. The antibody response rate was similar to what was seen in adults.

What side effects can children expect from the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Benun reports that the side effects seen in the Pfizer COVID-19 trials for children ages 5- 11 were similar side effects seen in the two previous Pfizer COVID-19 trials conducted at ARC: the 12-to-15 age group trials and the adult trials.

The side effects were:

  • Headaches.
  • Body aches.
  • Fever.
  • Soreness at the vaccination site.

"We didn't see anything unique from the younger or the older kids," said Dr. Benun.

Is myocarditis a concern?

With the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), doctors have seen some cases of myocarditis, an inflammation around the heart, in older teens and younger adults, particularly in males. But the risk for myocarditis, Dr. Benun said, is extremely low (one or two cases per 100,000) and the adults and teens who have experienced it recover quickly without lasting damage to their hearts. The risk for suffering myocarditis from catching COVID-19 is higher, Dr. Benun added.

What's the difference between the vaccine for older kids and the vaccine for kids ages 5-11?

Kids ages 12 and older receive the adult dose, which is 30 micrograms. Children ages 5 to 11 will receive one-third of the adult dose, or 10 micrograms. Just as in people ages 12 and older, kids will be given a series of two shots at least 21 days apart initially.

Why is vaccinating kids against COVID-19 important?

During the surge caused by the coronavirus delta variant this summer, kids were making up about 25% of COVID-19 cases, and about 2% of kids who got COVID-19 needed to be hospitalized. Dr. Benun said, "We have seen kids that have no underlying risk factors get very sick and end up in the hospital.” Vaccination "can eliminate the risk of going to the hospital from 2% to 0%," he added.

Other reasons to get this age group vaccinated include:

  • Death: Children are not immune to the worst COVID-19 has to offer. As of October 20, 2021, 637 people ages birth to 18 have died from COVID-19.
  • Long COVID: In the U.S. more than 5,000 cases of multi-inflammatory syndrome have been seen in children as a result of having COVID-19. Children can also suffer from “long COVID” in which symptoms continue for months.
  • Family spread: This 5-11 age group can infect other family members who are at risk of having a severe outcome.
  • Herd immunity: Getting this age group vaccinated is critical to achieving herd immunity and stopping mutations.

"All these humans under age 12 are not vaccinated, and that doesn't help us reach herd immunity," Dr. Benun said, but if we can get them vaccinated, then COVID-19 could become closer to a seasonal infection that circulates, "and life goes on," he added. "We have the technology to make this end sooner," Dr. Benun said.

When can you get your children vaccinated against COVID-19?

With Pfizer vaccine approval for ages 5-11, the next step will be distribution. The bottle for the 5-11 vaccine is different to prevent dosing errors, and so there will be a short gap between approval and distribution. ARC has submitted an order for the COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5-11 and is now scheduling shots for this age group to be given starting the week of November 8.

How and when to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine

The process to book COVID-19 vaccines for ages 5-11 will be the same as for kids ages 12-17--available to book through MyChart, with proxy. If a parent does not yet have proxy for their child/children, they can request that on MyChart.

Stay informed on the latest updates. Watch for announcements on our COVID Updates web page, or follow us for the latest news on ARC social media—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Still have questions? Learn more about the science behind the kid’s COVID-19 vaccine on the American Academy of Pediatrics website.

Tags: COVID-19 vaccine for children