Below are FAQs from parents about the COVID-19 vaccine for younger children. These answers were provided/reviewed by Dr. Capri Weyer, Pediatrician; Medical Director, Deaconess Clinic Primary Care, and Jeff Starkey, PharmD, Deaconess Clinical Pharmacist, Antimicrobial Stewardship Coordinator. Content related to pregnancy and fertility had previously been reviewed by Dr. Brennan Fitzpatrick, Maternal/Fetal Medicine Specialist at Tri-State Perinatology.
How and where can parents sign their child up for the COVID-19 vaccines?
, and follow the steps to schedule.
- For appointment type, be sure to choose “COVID-19 Vaccine – Pfizer, Ages 5-11.”
- Appointments are available at both our Gateway and Henderson campuses at this time.
- Vaccines will be given by staff from our pediatric departments.
- At the first appointment, parents/caregivers will schedule the appointment for the second dose, approximately 3 weeks later.
Once the supply of vaccines is greater, we will be able to offer vaccines in Deaconess Clinic Pediatrics offices.
How do we know these vaccines are safe and effective?
Approximately 2,250 children participated in the clinical trial earlier this year, about 1500 of whom received the vaccine. The trial showed that the vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease. There were no severe adverse side effects attributed to the vaccine. This information, added to the information that billions of adults and adolescents have received the vaccine with minimal negative outcomes, leads pediatricians to recommend the vaccination in children. COVID-19 can cause serious illness in children, and that risk far exceeds any risk of the vaccine.
What about flu shots and other vaccines?
Currently, flu shots for all ages are available in our Saturday drive-thrus, as well as in primary care offices and our Deaconess Clinic Urgent Care and EXPRESS locations. There doesn’t need to be spacing between flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines, but at this time, we don’t offer them in the same locations. That will change once we have more COVID-19 vaccine to distribute to more locations. Pediatric patients will be able to receive needed vaccines (flu or other childhood immunizations) at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine, with no requirement for spacing.
My child doesn’t have any health issues. Do they still need the vaccine?
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending vaccines to children in this age group for several reasons:
Is the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5-11 the same as for 12 and up?
- COVID-19 can cause serious illness in children, and that risk far exceeds any risk of the vaccine.
- Kids being vaccinated will make it easier for them to stay in school and not worry about quarantine. Vaccinating children will protect children’s health and allow them to fully engage in all of the activities that are so important to their health and development.
- Parents can enjoy greater peace of mind gathering with family members this winter and sending their children to school, sports and other events that were paused during the height of the pandemic.
- While most children don’t experience severe illness, late this summer, COVID-19 was the sixth-highest cause of death among American children. Thousands of children age 5-11 were hospitalized due to COVID-19, filling children’s hospitals—including Riley Hospital for Children—which can affect other care needed by children. About 30% of children hospitalized for COVID had no underlying conditions.
- Vaccination can also help prevent long term complications such as long COVID syndrome, which occurs in about 7-8% of infected children.
- Vaccination helps decrease transmission to those who are unable to be vaccinated at this time, such as infants, as well as those with a weaker immune response to the vaccine.
- The more people who are vaccinated, the less likely the virus is to spread into potentially new variants.
- Pediatrics focuses on prevention. If we have safe and effective ways to prevent serious illness or death in a child, that’s an important thing to know and to do.
The Pfizer vaccine for younger children is the same mRNA vaccine as for older children and adults, but a different formulation to help ensure the correct smaller dosage. Younger children will receive a 1/3 dose of the active mRNA concentration. The formulation for younger children is also in a different vial, with different color markings, to help reduce any dosing errors. This lower dose has been shown to mount an adequate immune response with the least amount of side effects.
What side effects should I be concerned about?
Children participating in the trial reported minor side effects, similar to what may be expected with a flu shot. Sore arm, fatigue, low-grade fever, chills, headaches, and minor body aches were the most reported. These symptoms are usually self-limiting and resolve within 2-3 days. They can be managed at home with rest and appropriate dosing of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).
If my child is almost 12, what should I do?
The lower-dose vaccine will provide 11-year-old children with strong protection against COVID-19 infection and even more protection against serious illness. Given the upcoming holidays, parents may consider risks of waiting. Additionally, if a child would turn from 11 to 12 years of age between their first and second dose, parents can choose for their child to receive either
dose (full dose or 1/3 dose for young children) for either vaccine injections. For parents who have children in this window of age, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician or primary care provider to discuss your options.
Can my child get the vaccine if they have already had a COVID infection? If so, when?
Yes, your child should be vaccinated after having COVID-19 once their symptoms have resolved and they are out of quarantine. This hybrid immunity (from both the vaccine and infection) will reduce the risk of future infection. Immunity from natural infection is variable. Additionally, people who have milder symptoms or are asymptomatic with COVID generally produce fewer antibodies than those who are more severely ill. Recent studies have shown that those who have prior infection but have not also been vaccinated are significantly more likely to be re-infected with COVID-19 than those who have been vaccinated.
Will there be boosters needed for ages 5-11 or 12-17?
At this time, boosters are not recommended for these age groups. If, in the future, doctors and researchers determine that immunity from vaccines is fading, and boosters are determined to be beneficial to this group, that recommendation may change.
I’ve read some rumors that COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility. Is this true?
There is no evidence at all
that any of the COVID-19 vaccines prevent conception or lead to miscarriages, problems in pregnancy or birth defects. A pregnancy/vaccine-related study was published June 17, 2021, in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study included more than 30,000 US women who were pregnant at the time of vaccination, and more than 5,000 who have become pregnant since being vaccinated; those participating in studies after receiving the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines show outcomes that correlate with pregnancies in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
Leading obstetric and reproductive professional organizations have recommended that pregnant or childbearing-age women be vaccinated for COVID-19. None of these groups would make this recommendation if they believed the vaccine presented a risk a woman’s ability to become pregnant or to have a healthy pregnancy. You can read statements from the largest professional group of OB/GYNS at www.acog.org
It's important to note that about 2/3 of inaccurate information about COVID-19 vaccines is from about 12 individuals, named The Disinformation Dozen. Conversely, hundreds of thousands of physicians, in specialties ranging from infectious disease, pediatrics, internal medicine, family medicine and more, have endorsed these vaccines for patients and healthcare workers.
Some content is from the American Academy of Pediatrics.