May 25, 2022 9:00 AM


Información en español

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 13 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States, and nearly 1,600 children have died from the virus or complications from multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). However, now we have COVID-19 vaccines that have proven to be safe and effective and help prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

Children ages 5 years and older are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot. Booster shots are recommended at least five months after the initial Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine series. Children age 12 and older who are immunocompromised should receive a second booster dose at least four months after their first booster. At this time, Pfizer-BioNTech is the only COVID-19 vaccine available to children 5 to 17 years old.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone who is eligible get a COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot to help protect them against the virus and developing severe disease. 

COVID-19 Vaccines in Younger Children

There are more steps involved in a vaccine trial for younger children (6 months to 4 years old). In February 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) postponed its advisory committee meeting on whether it would grant Pfizer-BioNTech emergency use authorization for this group after Pfizer-BioNTech submitted new data from its ongoing clinical trial.

Pfizer-BioNTech recently announced its COVID-19 vaccine showed a strong immune response and that it was 80 percent effective after three doses for children under 5 years of age. Moderna has also requested FDA approval to expand the use of its COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 6 months to 4 years. Moderna found during the Omicron surge that its vaccine efficacy was nearly 44 percent for children 6 months to 2 years and nearly 38 percent effective for children 2 to 6 years old. A final decision by the FDA is expected in June.

Child Immunizations

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 co-administration of routine childhood and adolescent immunization with COVID-19 vaccines.

Routine vaccination is an essential preventive 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 US.

COVID-19 Facts

There are many damaging myths about COVID-19, vaccines, and children that are preventing people from getting the protection they need. Anyone with questions should talk with a trusted, licensed health care provider.

FACT: Children can spread COVID-19.

Early studies suggested children did not play a big role in the spread of COVID-19 and did not seem to get infected as often. However, more recent studies found some children carry equally high levels of SARS-CoV-2 and can spread it easily to others. This has always been true for older children. According to Andrew Pavia, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health, most hospitalizations and serious complications from COVID-19 have been among kids 12 to 18 years old.

FACT: COVID-19 is a serious virus for children.

While the earlier strains of the COVID-19 virus did not impact children as much as adults, COVID-19 hospitalizations for children under 18 have soared with more transmissible and contagious strains. Children are at risk of experiencing complications such as hospitalization, death, and perhaps most commonly, long COVID. The number of children hospitalized in Utah and other parts of the country was unprecedented during the fall wave of delta and the winter wave of Omicron, according to Pavia.

Another condition among children caused by COVID-19 is MIS-C, a serious illness that causes harmful inflammation in different parts of the body. It takes three to six weeks after infection for the condition to develop. “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. “Vaccines will help prevent that and also help prevent MIS-C because it occurs after COVID-19 infection.” Most children who develop MIS-C need to be treated in the hospital, with most in the ICU. 

FACT: It’s safe for kids to get vaccinated.

The side effects experienced among kids are nearly identical to those of adults. These include pain at the site of injection, headache, fever, and fatigue. Side effects typically last a day or two and can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Currently, the CDC is monitoring reports of myocarditis and pericarditis, an extremely rare and temporary condition associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that may occur in less than .001% of vaccinated people. The CDC continues to highly recommend COVID-19 vaccines because the risk of severe illness and complications associated with COVID-19 infection far outweigh any potential risk from vaccination.

FACT: Three doses will better protect you.

The two-dose initial COVID-19 vaccine series and a booster shot will better protect you from severe disease, hospitalization, and death from the virus. “It’s become very clear that as the virus changed over time, immunity from natural infection and from the first two doses is waning,” says Pavia. A second booster is also available for certain groups and is recommended four months after the first booster dose. An additional booster dose helps further enhance protection against the COVID-19 virus.

FACT: COVID-19 vaccines don’t impact fertility.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 negatively affects fertility or menstrual cycles. COVID-19 vaccines are considered safe and effective for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, and women who would like to have babies. According to studies, people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy are about 40% more likely to develop serious complications or die than those who aren’t infected with the virus.

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This information was accurate at the time of publication in May 2022. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some information may have changed since the original publication date. 

coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine children pediatric infectious diseases booster shot

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