As you may have heard, the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 to 11 officially received full approval by the FDA as of Oct. 29. In June 2022, according to the FDA, Pfizer was approved for ages 6 months and older and Moderna was approved for ages 6 months to 5 years old. Since this is a rather new development, of course there are some questions that have been raised regarding this vaccine.
This blog focuses on the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5 to 11. Additional information on the new age group will be added soon.
How Does COVID Affect Kids?
To understand the importance of the pediatric vaccine, first you must know how COVID affects children. The Mayo Clinic explains that most children who become ill with COVID-19 have mild symptoms. However, some children risk developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
MIS-C is a serious illness that is still a mystery to experts. It is unknown what causes this syndrome, but it has been linked to COVID-19. The Mayo Clinic continues to say that, “children who go on to develop MIS-C, some organs and tissues — such as the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, digestive system, brain, skin, or eyes — become severely inflamed.”
While MIS-C is rare and usually curable, it still creates incentive for parents to make sure their children are protected. The pediatric COVID vaccine is highly recommended for children because it can limit the spread of the disease and prevent the rare instances of children developing MIS-C.
Safety Concerns and the Kids COVID Vaccine
Some may say that it has been a long time coming for the release of the pediatric COVID vaccine, while others tread lightly because they are unsure if it is safe. The FDA eases concerns by stating that they are confident this vaccine is, “90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11.”
It is also important to know that there have been extensive studies done on children in this age group and there have been no reports of serious negative outcomes.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes a point that children 5 to 11 years of age would be wise to get the vaccine in order to prevent getting severely ill if they were to contract COVID. So if you are wondering “what can I do to boost my kid’s immunity,” you may want to take the opportunity to get your child vaccinated!
We are almost two years into this pandemic and it looks like experts have perfected vaccine monitoring as well. The CDC explains that “COVID-19 vaccines are being monitored for safety with the most comprehensive and intense safety monitoring program in U.S. history.”
If anyone were to have a severe reaction to the vaccine, no matter the age group, it would be closely tracked.
What is Different about the Pediatric COVID Vaccine?
The COVID vaccine has been approved for ages 12 and older for some time and this age group receives the same exact Pfizer vaccine, so what is different about the COVID vaccine for kids under 12?
According to Michigan Health, children 5 to 11 only get about a third of the dose that is offered to ages 12 and up or 10 micrograms rather than 30 micrograms. The lower dosage was well studied and found to be the best option to make sure a “strong antibody response” occurred without as many side effects.
The Mayo Clinic also mentions another significant difference between the adult vaccine and the pediatric vaccine. The buffer, or what is used to keep the vaccine stable during refrigeration, is not the same.
The reason behind the change was to allow this formula to be refrigerated for “10 weeks rather than the previous 1 month,” according to Nebraska Medicine. While this difference may seem insignificant, it allows more clinics to have the vaccine on hand and distribute it to the public.
Does Weight Influence the Vaccine?
Medications given to children are typically determined by their weight, but vaccines are different from medications in this way. The COVID vaccine for ages 5 to 11 is not determined by weight, but rather by age on the day of vaccination, according to The New York Times.
Michigan Health backs up this statement as well. They point out that weight does not impact immune response in the same way that it does with medication and it is for this reason that many vaccines can use the same dose for a variety of ages.
How are the Pediatric COVID Vaccines Administered?
Children tend to have stronger immune responses and it is for this reason that the pediatric COVID vaccine is administered in multiple, smaller doses. These smaller doses are also given with smaller needles.
After getting the initial dose, the CDC recommends “a second shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine three weeks after the first” to boost immunity. Two weeks after the second dose children are considered fully vaccinated.
Experts say you can expect your little one to have similar reactions to the vaccine as previous age groups. Side effects after vaccination can include:
- Pain, redness, and swelling at injection site
- Muscle aches
Just like adults who have experienced these symptoms after being vaccinated, children should start feeling better in a few days after receiving their shot.
Are COVID Vaccines Required for School?
At this time the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) strongly recommends students, parents, and staff get COVID vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccination for children is encouraged to prevent the spread of the disease, as well as protect children and their families, but it is not a requirement at this time. There is no school vaccine mandate.
Where Can You Get Your Child Vaccinated?
If you are interested in getting your child vaccinated, click here for more information about the COVID vaccine for ages 5 to 11 and scheduling options.