FALLS CHURCH, Virginia –
On Nov. 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, endorsed the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. It’s the latest of several important steps taken by the federal government to end the pandemic.
“As we approach the holiday season, we all have one more thing to be grateful for and that’s the news that kids ages 5 to 11 are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Donna Hoffman, a family nurse practitioner with the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Healthcare Division. “Vaccinating your child is the best way to keep them safe from COVID. It will also help keep them from getting seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19.”
Although children are at a lower risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 compared to adults, COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations and in some rare situations, deaths.
According to the CDC, the vaccine will reduce children’s risk of severe disease, death, or long-term COVID-19 complications. Vaccinating children will help prevent them from passing the virus to others, like brothers or sisters who aren’t yet eligible to receive the vaccine. And it will help protect family members who are at the highest risk from severe illness. Getting kids vaccinated will also limit disruptions to in-person learning and activities, like sports and playdates, by helping to reduce the disease’s spread among groups of children.
The vaccine has the same active components as those found in the Pfizer-BioNTech product for those age 12 years and older. Children will receive two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, given 21 days apart. Each dose contains 10mcg of the vaccine, which is one-third of the adult dose. The CDC recommends this formulation for children ages 5 to 11 only. The formulation is identified by having an orange cap on the vial.
The vaccine is safe and effective. Clinical trials showed the two-dose shot was nearly 91% effective at preventing infection in young children. This is similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, according to the CDC. And children had mild vaccine side effects similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children.
You can use v-safe, the CDC’s smartphone-based health-monitoring tool, to complete health check-ins after your child receives the vaccine. V-safe will also send you vaccine dose reminders.
The vaccine process is the same for children as it is for adults. To get your child vaccinated, you can take them to:
You can also check with your child’s health care provider to see if they offer COVID-19 vaccinations. And check with your local pharmacy to see if the vaccine for children is available.
If your child receives the vaccine outside of the DOD, let their primary care manager, or PCM, know. And provide your child’s PCM with a copy of the vaccine card for them to add to your child’s health record. The COVID-19 vaccine itself is free. However, there may be a cost based on your child’s health plan for an office visit with a provider, or if your child needs follow-on care.
Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only approved COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The Pfizer vaccine is authorized by the CDC for children age 12 years and older, so don’t forget to get your older children and teens vaccinated as well. This can also be a good time to get your children caught up on other vaccines, such as the flu vaccine. A medical professional can administer both vaccines at the same appointment.
“Don’t put getting the vaccine off,” said Hoffman. “If you’re unsure whether the COVID-19 vaccine is right for your child, you should discuss their medical conditions, including prior reaction to vaccines, with a health care provider.”
You and your family can help slow the spread of COVID-19 in your community. Schedule a vaccine appointment for your child as soon as possible, so that they can enter the new year fully vaccinated. Find COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens near you, and keep up with vaccine updates.
At the time of posting, this information is current. Visit www.cdc.gov or TRICARE COVID Guidance for the most current COVID-19 information.