Overview of COVID-19 child vaccination

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CDC recommends everyone ages 5 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against COVID-19.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for those aged 5 to 17. 

Unlike many medications, COVID-19 vaccine dosage does not vary by patient weight but by age on the day of vaccination.

Adolescents ages 12 years and older receive the same dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as adults.

Children ages 5 through 11 years receive an age-appropriate dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 years has the same active ingredients as the vaccine given to adults and adolescents. However, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for adults and adolescents cannot be used for children ages 5 through 11 years.

Your child will need a second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine three weeks after their first shot.

If a child turns from 11 to 12 years of age in between their first and second dose, the second dose should be the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 12 years and older. However, if the child receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 for their second dose, they do not need to repeat the dose.

Why children and teens should get vaccinated for COVID-19

There are approximately 28 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old in the United States, and there have been nearly 2 million cases of COVID-19 within this age group during the pandemic. COVID-19 can make children very sick and cause children to be hospitalized. In some situations, the complications from infection can lead to death.

Children are as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as adults and can:

  • Get very sick from COVID-19
  • Have both short and long-term health complications from COVID-19
  • Spread COVID-19 to others, including at home and school

As of mid-October 2021, children ages 5 through 11 years have experienced more than 8,300 COVID-19 related hospitalizations and nearly 100 deaths from COVID-19. In fact, COVID-19 ranks as one of the top 10 causes of death for children ages 5 through 11 years.

Children who get infected with COVID-19 can also develop serious complications like multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C)—a condition where different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Since the pandemic began, more than 2,300 cases of MIS-C have been reported in children ages 5 through 11 years. Children with underlying medical conditions are more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with children without underlying medical conditions.

Help protect your child, your family, and others

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect children ages 5 years and older from getting COVID-19.

  • Vaccinating children can help protect family members, including siblings who are not eligible for vaccination and family members who may be at increased risk of getting very sick if they are infected.
  • Vaccination can also help keep children from getting seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19.
  • Vaccinating children ages 5 years and older can help keep them in school and help them safely participate in sports, playdates, and other group activities.

Help protect your whole family and slow the spread of COVID-19 in your community by getting yourself and your children ages 5 years and older vaccinated against COVID-19.

Protect unvaccinated children

Unvaccinated children ages 2 years and older should wear a mask in public spaces and around people they don’t live with.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children and teens

Before recommending COVID-19 vaccination for children, scientists conducted clinical trials with thousands of children and no serious safety concerns were identified. The FDA gave the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine emergency authorization to use in children ages 5-15 years old and full approval to use in people ages 16 years and older. Learn more about the process of developing, authorizing, and approving COVID-19 vaccines.

The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks. Get a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 years and older as soon as you can.

COVID-19 vaccines are being monitored for safety with the most comprehensive and intense safety monitoring program in U.S. history. CDC monitors the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines after the vaccines are authorized or approved for use, including the risk of myocarditis in children ages 5 through 11 years.

Your child may get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including flu vaccine, at the same time.

Serious health events after COVID-19 vaccination are rare.

Cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) have been reported after Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination of children ages 12–17 years.  These reactions are rare; in one study, the risk of myocarditis after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech in the week following vaccination was around 54 cases per million doses administered to males ages 12–17 years.

In general, adolescents ages 12 through 17 years have a higher risk for myocarditis than children ages 5 through 11 years. During clinical trials, no cases of myocarditis occurred in children ages 5 through 11 years who received the COVID-19 vaccine.

A severe allergic reaction, like anaphylaxis, may happen after any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, but this is rare.

Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Learn more about how mRNA vaccines, like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, work.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems.