COVID-19 vaccine approval for ages 5-11: what parents need to know

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine was authorized yesterday to be given to children, ages 5 through 11. This is a long awaited and highly anticipated approval, as children under the age of 12 have not previously been able to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Parents have had to make many difficult decisions over the past 20 months, from home-schooling and canceling activities to wearing masks and getting tested. Making a decision for vaccinating a child against a new disease can be stressful, too. So, we asked Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas medical director, Kent Haverkamp, M.D. to answer the most frequently asked questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

What vaccine was authorized?

At this time, the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine authorized to be given to children ages 5 through 17.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for children?

All actions have risks and benefits. Driving a child to school carries the risk of injury in an accident, but the risk is small compared to the benefits of learning to read and write. The COVID-19 vaccine has risks, but review of the available science has shown the overall benefit of receiving the vaccine outweighs the risk. Vaccinating children will likely keep them safe from getting seriously sick or dying from COVID-19.

Why should my child get the vaccine?

Children ages 5 to 11 appear to be at less risk of complications than adults and the immunocompromised. However, more than 100 children already have died and more than 8,000 have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the United States alone. The COVID-19 vaccine could prevent your child from dying and can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other children.

Should I get my child vaccinated?

Yes, you should discuss your child’s health with a qualified pediatrician or primary care physician and develop a plan for your child’s optimal health.

Is the dose different for children than adults?

The dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use authorization in children ages 5 to 11 is one third the dose of that approved for adults. 

How should I prepare my child for the vaccine?

No additional preparation is needed for the COVID-19 vaccine. Use the same precautions used for other vaccinations. As stated above, as the vaccine is one third the normal dose side, this should help prevent any adverse side effects.

My child is already fully vaccinated, do they really need the COVID-19 vaccine too?

Yes, up to now routine childhood vaccinations have provided no protection for COVID-19. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine helps prevent your child from contracting and getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

My child already had COVID-19, do they still need to get the vaccine?

Yes, even if your child has already had COVID-19, they should still receive their COVID-19 vaccine.

Will my child have bad side effects from the vaccine?

While side effects are not uncommon with the COVID-19 vaccine, the risks outweigh benefits. The dose for children ages 5 to 11 is one third the normal dose given to an adult and may decrease the chance of adverse side effects.

My child has an underlying health condition, is it safe for them to get the vaccine?

The vaccine has been proven to be safe for children. Discuss any specific concerns with your pediatrician or primary care physician. 

Can the COVID-19 vaccine give my child COVID-19?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not give your child COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain live viruses.

Kent Haverkamp, M.D.

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