COVID-19 vaccine authorized and recommended for children ages 5-11; where and how to get your child vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccine authorized and recommended for children ages 5-11

Families may breathe a little easier now that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in children ages 5 to 11. The decision comes after research showing that the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing disease in this age group.

“Many people think children don’t get COVID-19 or get only very mild cases. That’s a myth. The disease can be very dangerous for kids,” said Andrew Pavia, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health and Director of Hospital Epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

Take a look at the COVID-19 numbers:

  • Utah
    • 600 children ages 5-11 have been hospitalized with severe symptoms from COVID-19
    • 2 children have died from COVID-19
    • More than 100 kids have developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), which can cause dangerous inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs
    • Roughly 7 out of 100 children who overcome the disease will go on to have long-COVID symptoms like fatigue, muscle and joint pain, insomnia, headache, and heart palpitations lasting 12 weeks or longer after the infection
  • Nationally
    • About 8,300 children ages 5-11 have been hospitalized
    • 720 people age 18 and younger have died

“The benefits of this vaccine far outweigh the risks for children,” said Dr. Pavia.

Safe and effective

Research has shown that kids who are fully immunized with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are 10 times less likely to become infected with COVID-19 than kids who are not immunized. There have been no serious reactions reported to date.

The United States has an excellent system for identifying complications from vaccines. This system includes pediatricians, family doctors, state health departments, and the best experts in the country. They work 365 days a year to ensure that any red flags are caught early. “We don’t take anything for granted. We are continually looking at vaccine safety,” said Dr. Pavia.

He also pointed out that serious reactions or complications – if they happen at all – usually show up in the first couple weeks after vaccination. With almost a year of history with these vaccines being given to millions of individuals, we have a good understanding of their safety profile, including rare problems.

Side effects

Side effects among kids are similar to those seen in adults: redness and soreness at the injection site. Swollen lymph nodes, fever, and chills can also occur, but so far these seem to happen less often among younger kids. It's okay to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms. Remember, these symptoms are a sign that children and teenagers, like most adults, have immune systems that are responding well to the vaccine. There were no cases of severe allergic reactions or heart problems among the children studied in the 5-11 age group.

When and where can kids get the vaccine?

COVID vaccines are available to pediatric patients ages 5-11 in select Intermountain Medical Group clinics as well as Primary Children’s Hospital’s Community Pharmacy and at the hospital’s Shot Spot walk-in clinic at its Eccles Outpatient Building (first floor). Access Intermountain pediatric vaccine locations here.

You can also find other vaccine locations on the vaccines.gov website.

Children with medical conditions

For most kids with chronic illness or underlying medical conditions, it’s even more important to get the vaccine because often they are more likely to develop severe illness if infected with COVID-19, said Dr. Pavia. Children who have a medical condition (cancer, obesity, diabetes, lung disease, organ transplant, etc.) should get the vaccine. This is because they are more likely to develop severe illness if they get COVID-19.

Children with medical conditions are not more likely to have a severe reaction to the vaccine. However, for some, their “immunity boost” from the vaccine may not be as strong as it would be in a child with a healthy immune system. (This is why we need the majority of people in our communities to be vaccinated—to create a protective barrier around those with weaker immune systems.)

For more information

Dr. Pavia suggests all parents reach out to their child’s pediatrician, family doctor, specialist, or healthcare team to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine. They are the experts families trust most.

Also visit Primary Children’s Hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine site for more answers to common questions and how to best protect your child, or access a printable version.