The Pfizer COVID vaccine has officially been authorized for children 5-11 years old! While we’re thrilled about this news, we also understand that it may spark a host of other emotions for you. What it definitely sparked, even for us parent clinicians, was questions:
- My kiddo is precious, how do I know this is safe?
- Should I plan for any downtime after my kid gets the vaccine?
- Is there anything I can do to make my child more comfortable if they’re experiencing side effects from the vaccine?
- Where can I get my kiddo vaccinated against COVID-19?
We combed through recent research to answer these questions for ourselves and, hopefully, for you. A quick note before we dive in: we understand that information from news outlets can be polarizing these days. Because of this, everything you read below is from scientific research papers and medical sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics.
With that out of the way, enjoy the read!
First, the basics.
Our kiddos 5-11 years old will be vaccinated with a dose ⅓ that of the adult / teen dose (and with a smaller needle, to boot). They’ll receive 2 doses spaced ~21 days apart.
How do I know this is safe?
We’ll start with this: as adults, some of us tend to be cavalier about our own health. Very rarely are we anything but painstakingly cautious with the health of our children. Many of the scientists that created, tested and approved this vaccine are also parents with kids 5-11 years old. They’re as much (if not more so) concerned with the safety of these vaccines as you.
Numbers-wise, of the 3,000+ kids enrolled in Pfizer’s clinical trials, zero had serious adverse reactions to the vaccine. Additionally, more than 11 million kids aged 12-17 years have already received both doses of their Pfizer vaccine. Safety monitoring in these kids has been ongoing since May, when the vaccine was authorized for children aged 12-15. If you’ve had your eye closely on the news (or on the clinical research, like us 🤓 ) you may have heard whispers of the scary-sounding “myocarditis.” Extensive research also makes the math here clear: kids are more at-risk for developing myocarditis from an actual COVID infection than they are from the vaccine.
And, last but not least, if you’re worried about potential long-term side effects of the COVID vaccine, history tells us you can breathe. Since vaccines for children became commonplace, no vaccine has caused chronic conditions years or decades out. In the case of an mRNA vaccine like the Pfizer vaccine, the mRNA is also excreted from your kiddo’s body very quickly. There’s nothing foreign living in their body long-term. Like a fleeting messenger, the vaccine hands your child’s immune system the information to recognize the virus that causes COVID then exits the body, stage right.
Ok, I’m sold. Should I plan for any downtime after my kiddo gets vaccinated?
Yep, loosely plan for 1-3 easygoing days after both the first and second dose. As an example, Kinsa’s staff nurse scheduled her kiddos’ vaccine appointments the day after a track meet and orchestra concert, respectively (i.e. times when she knew her daughters would be moving a little slower anyway).
The most common temporary side effects of the vaccine in this age group are: pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever, and joint pain. Our staff nurse wrote a vaccine side effect alleviation guide, in case your kiddo ends up experiencing any of these temporary discomforts. You can read that here. The good news is that children aged 5-11 seem to have fewer side effects from the vaccine than teens and adults, so hopefully you’ll plan for some downtime and be pleasantly surprised when it’s back to business, as usual.
Where can my kid get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Check vaccines.gov for vaccination sites near you or if you’re thinking - “meep, between the two vaccine visits and any downtime from potential mild side effects, this is getting time consuming…” - a pro-tip: schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician and do all of the following at once:
- An annual well-check visit
- A flu vaccine (yep, your kiddo can get this at the same time as the COVID vaccine)
- A COVID vaccine
With insurance, this will be 100% free and, dare we say, a brag-worthy day of parenting efficiency.
We hope this is helpful! Cheers to your health & the health of your kiddo 🥂