Watch CBSN Live

When can kids under 12 get the COVID-19 vaccine? What parents need to know

Children receive first shots of COVID vaccine
Children receive first shots of COVID vaccine... 03:04

Some 28 million American children between the ages of 5 to 11 years old are now eligible to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday, November 2, that it is formally recommending use of the vaccine for that age group, following a unanimous show of support from its panel of vaccine advisers. That marked the final regulatory step after the Food and Drug Administration issued its emergency use authorization last week. 

When can children get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Many providers began offering vaccinations for kids on Wednesday, November 3. Federal health officials said doses should be even more widely available by the following week.

Where can I get my child vaccinated? 

Federal health officials have encouraged Americans to check to find locations near them with shots in stock. More locations will be added in the coming days as supplies are distributed around the country.

Vaccines for kids will be available at many pediatricians' offices, as well as at children's hospitals, rural health clinics, pharmacies, some school-based clinics and other community locations.

Almost two-thirds of parents surveyed by the CDC said they would prefer to get their child vaccinated at their regular doctor's office.

Federal health officials have sought to recruit more of these providers to become COVID-19 vaccinators in recent weeks, though not all will be first in line to administer shots.

"The recently enrolled providers with a smaller patient base are less likely to get vaccine in this first week, when the minimum order is 300 doses. When the minimum order drops in the next week or so to 100 doses, I think some of those more newly enrolled providers would be able to get vaccine," said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. 

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free for all U.S. children as well as adults. 

Vaccinators are required to administer shots at no out-of-pocket cost to patients and not to deny vaccines to people without insurance.

How is the vaccine for children different?

Pfizer's vaccine for children is given in two doses, three weeks apart. Each dose is just 10 micrograms, a third of the 30 microgram dose given to adolescents and adults.

The pediatric doses will also come in a new formulation that will prolong its shelf life in pharmacy refrigerators, while making it easier for vaccinators to draw up the smaller doses. It includes a new ingredient called Tris buffer, which is commonly used to stabilize other vaccines and medicines.

The kid-sized dose was highly effective at triggering antibodies to the virus in clinical trials and more than 90% effective at blocking symptomatic disease. 

"The manufacturing process of the mRNA active ingredient and the lipid nanoparticle is completely unchanged. The only change is in the formulation, which is the last step of the product manufacture," Nicholas Warne, Pfizer's vice president of pharmaceutical research and development, told the FDA's outside vaccine advisers last month

What about side effects?

Overall, Pfizer's clinical trial data suggests younger children will experience fewer side effects than adolescents or young adults. Side effects that did occur, such as fever or redness around where the shot was given, "were mostly mild to moderate, and short lived."

Much of the FDA and CDC panels' discussions focused on weighing the benefits of the vaccine against the potential risk of rare cases of myocarditis, a heart inflammation side effect. While the exact rate of myocarditis after the vaccine in 5- to 11-year-olds remains unknown, it is rare enough that zero cases turned up in the clinical trial. The CDC's advisers concluded the risk was "likely lower" in younger children than adolescents.

Pfizer studied the vaccine's safety in some 3,100 children who received the shots, a trial that FDA officials say is larger than most studies typically used to license other vaccines for children. Safety monitoring in more than 11 million adolescents and teens who are now fully vaccinated have also turned up no new safety issues.

"It's a very important thing to recognize that the very low risk of myocarditis with vaccination pales in comparison to the very high risk for severe heart disease related to COVID and MIS-C," Dr. Matthew Harris of Cohen Children's Medical Center told CBS News.

Will there be enough supply for all the families who want it?

The White House says it has purchased enough of Pfizer's vaccine for all 28 million U.S. children.

Up to 15 million doses of Pfizer's pediatric vaccine are being shipped out in the first wave of deliveries, White House officials said, as vaccinators prepare for parents clamoring to get their children vaccinated. 

In a CDC survey, 57% of parents of children aged 5 to 11 said they would "definitely" or "probably" get their child vaccinated.

"The question is how much do they get out the door so that it's in place by Wednesday. I don't think that every provider that has ordered vaccine is going to get it by Wednesday," said Hannan.

Ten million of the first wave of doses are headed to sites planned out by local health officials. The remaining 5 million will be distributed through the CDC's partnership with retail pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.