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COVID-19 Vaccines for Young Children

Jun 30, 2022
covid vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccines Approved for Children Starting at Six Months

Children ages 6 months to 5 years can now get COVID-19 vaccinations. Two vaccines received emergency use authorization (granted when a drug is needed for emergency use) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available for children 6 months and older.

Data shows the vaccine provides many benefits and is the way to end the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “everyone 6 months and older, including those with disabilities and underlying medical conditions, should get vaccinated against COVID-19.” Parents may still question the need and safety of the vaccine for young children.

What are the Benefits of Younger Children Receiving the Vaccine?

While many children have mild symptoms with COVID-19, a small number need more serious medical care. This may include being admitted to the hospital or an intensive care unit. Research has proven that the benefits of the vaccine for younger children outweigh the risks, and while no vaccine is 100% effective, the COVID-19 vaccine reduces the risk of the harmful effects of COVID-19.

Also, being vaccinated can help reduce daycare quarantines and the need to mask in certain situations (never mask a child under two years old).

What Is the Difference Between Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines for children under 5?

The primary difference between the two are the number and timing of doses:

  • Moderna requires two doses four weeks apart.
  • Pfizer requires three doses. There are three weeks between the first and second dose. The third dose is given eight weeks after the second dose. The entire schedule takes 11 weeks.

Will My Young Child Need Booster Shots?

Booster shots are not yet recommended for children under age 5.

Where Is the Shot Given?

Younger children receive many vaccines in their thigh because it is a bigger muscle to receive the shot.

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe? What Are the Side Effects in Young Children?

Vaccines have been studied in every age group to make sure they are safe and effective. Common side effects include pain and tenderness at the injection site, irritability and fever. These effects are due to the body’s immune system building immunity to COVID-19. These symptoms usually are better within 24 to 48 hours. Some children don’t have any side effects.

My Child Already Had COVID-19. Do They Still Need to Be Vaccinated?

Yes. It is possible to get COVID-19 again, so it’s important for your child to be vaccinated even if they have already had COVID-19.

How Soon Does the Vaccine Work?

Children are considered fully vaccinated about two weeks after their final dose.

Can Children Get Really Sick With COVID-19?

Children are at lower risk of becoming severally ill with COVID-19 compared to adults, however it is possible for children infected with COVID-19 to get very sick. One serious effect is multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). MIS-C occurs in children who previously were infected with COVID-19. It causes different body parts to become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain. 

Where Can My Child Get Vaccinated?

Check with your child’s doctor to determine the best place to have your child vaccinated.

Still have questions? Your child’s doctor can help you make the right decision for your child. You can also click here for more information.

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Matthew Washam, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases

Matthew C. Washam, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and member of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Washam’s research interests include understanding the risk factors for transmission of multidrug-resistant bacteria in children within the hospital environment.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.