May 24, 2021 11:00 AM

Author: Kylene Metzger

Children age 12- to 15- years old can now get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine following Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 10, 2021. Results from a Phase 3 clinical trial testing the COVID-19 vaccine in this age group suggest it is highly effective at protecting them from disease.

Andy Pavia, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health, says he is optimistic for three reasons:

  1. The early results suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine protects children.
  2. The vaccine will help lessen spread among teenagers, who are major spreaders of infection.
  3. Vaccinating children will help reach herd immunity.

As of May 6, 2021, more than 3.8 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 300 children have died from the virus or complications from multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). In addition, hundreds of thousands of children are also suffering from long-term effects of COVID-19. “One of the scary things about long-COVID is it doesn’t seem to matter how sick you get when you are originally infected,” Pavia says. “Vaccine will help prevent that and also help prevent MIS-C because it occurs after COVID-19 infection.”

While younger children are not believed to play a big role in the spread of COVID-19 and do not seem to get infected as often, this is not true for older children. “We’ve seen most hospitalizations and more serious complications from COVID-19 in kids 12-18 years old,” Pavia says. 

According to data in Utah, in the U.S., and in other counties, surges of COVID-19 infection in high school and college-age students is usually followed by a surge in the rest of the population within a week or two. Pavia says that’s because this group tends to mix with a lot of people from various age groups. “Getting this group vaccinated may mark a real turning point in our ability to get us to a high level of protection and drive cases down,” Pavia says.

Getting back to normal

In May 2021, the CDC updated its guidance for immunization services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC recommends children can receive COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, such as HPV and Tdap, without having to wait between vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)also supports coadministration of routine childhood and adolescent immunization with COVID-19 vaccines. 

Routine vaccination is an essential preventative care service that should not be delayed for any age group. According to the CDC, routine vaccination helps prevent illnesses and helps protect individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks. The CDC says the interim guidance will be continually reassessed and updated based on evolving epidemiology of COVID-19 in the U.S.

COVID-19 vaccines in younger children

There are more steps involved in a vaccine trial for younger children (6 months to 11 years old). These studies will evaluate whether a full adult dose is appropriate or whether younger children need a smaller dose. Moderna began testing its COVID-19 vaccine in younger children in mid-March. Pfizer is also beginning new COVID-19 vaccine trials in children under 12. Pavia doesn’t expect vaccinations to become available for this age group until the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022.

How to get a COVID-19 vaccine:

Patients 12 years of age and older who live in Utah are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at University of Utah Health. Patients are encouraged to make a vaccine appointment through MyChart. To see all COVID-19 vaccine locations and scheduling options in Utah, visit the state’s coronavirus website or

The vaccine is free.

Everyone can get a COVID-19 vaccine with no out-of-pocket cost. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident, and you do not need to have a visa to get vaccinated.

Anyone who has questions about COVID-19 vaccines or needs scheduling assistance can call the U of U Health Hotline at 801-587-0712 or toll free at 844-745-9325.

Kylene Metzger

Public Affairs

coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine children pediatric infectious diseases

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