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COVID-19 vaccines for kids: What you need to know

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines are now available to children in the U.S. Here’s what parents and kids need to know about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, the possible side effects, and the benefits of getting vaccinated.

If children don’t frequently experience severe illness with COVID-19, why do they need a COVID-19 vaccine?

A COVID-19 vaccine and booster, updated to the most common strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, might prevent your child from getting the COVID-19 virus or becoming seriously ill or hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help your child more safely participate in sports and other group activities too.

What COVID-19 vaccines, additional primary shots and boosters are available to kids in the U.S.?

In the U.S., COVID-19 vaccines are available to children by age group:

  • Ages 6 months through 4 or 5 years old. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency use authorization to a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months through 4 years old. This vaccine requires three shots. The first two shots are given three to eight weeks apart. The third shot is given at least eight weeks after the second shot. Research shows that the three shots have produced antibody levels similar to those in young adults after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.The FDA also has given emergency use authorization to a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months through 5 years old. This vaccine requires two shots, given four to eight weeks apart. It’s estimated that this vaccine is about 51% effective in preventing COVID-19 in babies ages 6 months through 23 months. For kids ages 2 through 5 years old, the vaccine is estimated to be 37% effective in preventing COVID-19.Both vaccines contain lower amounts of mRNA than the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for older children and adults.
  • Ages 5 or 6 through 11. The FDA has given emergency use authorization to a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11. This vaccine involves two shots, given three to eight weeks apart. It contains a lower amount of mRNA than the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine used for people age 12 and older. Research shows that this vaccine is about 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 in this age group.The FDA also has given emergency use authorization to a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 through 11. This vaccine requires two shots, given four to eight weeks apart. For kids in this age group, the Moderna vaccine causes an immune response similar to that seen in adults.Both vaccines contain lower amounts of mRNA than the COVID-19 vaccines for people age 12 and older.
  • Ages 12 through 17. The FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, now called Comirnaty, for people age 12 through 17. This vaccine involves three shots. The first two are given three to eight weeks apart. The third shot, a booster, is given at least two months after the second shot. It contains the same amount of mRNA as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people age 16 and older. Research has shown that this vaccine is 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 12 through 15.This vaccine is 91% effective in preventing severe illness with COVID-19 in people age 16 and older.The FDA also has given emergency use authorization to a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 through 17. This vaccine requires two shots, given four to eight weeks apart. It contains the same amount of mRNA as the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for people age 18 and older. For kids ages 12 through 17, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine causes an immune response similar to that seen in adults.The FDA has also given emergency use authorization to a Novavax COVID-19 vaccine for people age 12 and older. This vaccine requires two shots, given three to eight weeks apart. Based on research submitted to the FDA, in children age 12 through 17, this vaccine is about 78% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 illness.

An eight-week interval between the first and second doses might be best for some people, especially males ages 12 to 39. A longer interval might increase protection against COVID-19 and reduce the risk of rare heart problems, such as myocarditis and pericarditis.

An additional primary shot of a COVID-19 vaccine can help people who are vaccinated and might not have had a strong enough immune response. The CDC now recommends that children age 6 months to 5 years who have a weakened immune system get at additional dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least four weeks after their second shot.

Children ages 5 and older who have moderately or severely weakened immune systems should get additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. This shot should be given at least four weeks after the second shot for kids ages 5 through 11 for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. For kids ages 12 and older the additional shot should be given at least four weeks after the second shot for the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Booster doses can help people who are vaccinated and whose immune response weakened over time. Research suggests that getting a booster dose can decrease the risk of infection and severe illness with COVID-19.

Kids ages 5 and older who had all recommended doses of the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Novavax COVID-19 vaccines can get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 updated, or bivalent booster. This booster is based on the original virus strain and two Omicron strains. Those age 6 and older can choose between the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster. People can get the booster shot at least two months after their last shot. People who recently had a positive COVID-19 test may consider waiting three months from when their symptoms started to get the booster.

Kids ages 5 and older who have a weakened immune system and have had all recommended doses of the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Novavax COVID-19 vaccines can get an updated, or bivalent, booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The bivalent booster can be given at least two months after the last shot…

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