The finish line for children ages 5 to 11 to get vaccinated is likely just steps away following the Food and Drug Administration’s independent advisory committee’s stamp of approval for the Pfizer
Though their vote was not binding, it could help persuade the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA to give their final green light.
That will pave the way for some 28 million American children to get vaccinated with their parents’ or guardians’ consent.
“This is one of the best ways to protect your child and family from COVID-19,” said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center.
In the meantime, you might have some questions about the vaccine’s side effects, what to expect and where you can get it.
Here are some answers to those pressing questions:
1. Where will vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11 be administered?
For the most part, your child should be able to get vaccinated at the same places people 12 and over have been getting vaccinated. But unlike the initial vaccine rollouts, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting an appointment, the White House said ahead of the FDA advisory panel’s meetings.
For instance, the national pharmacy chain CVS
confirmed with MarketWatch that they’ll be administering vaccines for children. Walgreens
declined to answer if it will be giving vaccines to children and is waiting on “official guidance as well as distribution plans for administering COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5-11.”
And more than 25,000 pediatricians and primary-care providers have already signed on to administer COVID-19 vaccine shots to kids, according to a White House brief.
On top of that, there will also be hundreds of school- and community-based clinics as well as children’s hospitals that will be administering vaccines.
2. How do COVID-19 vaccines for younger children differ from those being given to people 12 and up?
Children will be receiving Pfizer doses that are one-third the dose used for teens and adults.
But just as with teens and adults, they’ll have to wait three weeks to receive their second doses and an additional two weeks to get nearly 91% protection against symptomatic infection, according to a Pfizer study of more than 2,000 elementary-school-age children.
3. What are common side effects when younger kids get COVID-19 vaccines?
The side effects your child could experience after their first dose could include: arm pain/soreness, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and fever, according to Pfizer’s study.
“These symptoms are generally short-lived (last 1 to 3 days) and resolve on their own without any long-term impacts,” Rajapakse told MarketWatch.
“‘Most children will not have symptoms severe enough that they need to miss school’”
— Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center
“Side effects can occur more commonly after the second dose of the vaccine due to a stronger immune-system response,” she added. “If parents have concerns about a symptom their child is experiencing after vaccination they should seek the advice of their primary care provider to find out if it is an expected side effect or not.”
Importantly, “most children will not have symptoms severe enough that they need to miss school,” she said. Kids can take over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen to treat “bothersome” symptoms, Rajapakse added.
4. Can kids get a flu shot at or around the same time as their COVID-19 vaccine shot?
Based on “the best available data right now,” there’s no problem with a child receiving a flu shot and a COVID-19 shot during the same trip to the doctor’s office, Dr. Adam Ratner, chief of the pediatric infectious diseases division at New York University Grossman School of Medicine’s Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, told MarketWatch.
In fact, “you can get them at the same time,” Ratner said. “There’s no reason to think there would be interference between the two of them,” he added.
5. Will kids still need to wear masks at school once they’re fully vaccinated?
“Children should continue to wear masks after they are fully vaccinated until we see the levels of virus circulation in the community decrease substantially,” Rajapakse told MarketWatch.
“Parents should continue to follow the guidance of the CDC and their local public health units as recommendations regarding masking for vaccinated individuals may change if levels of virus circulation decrease significantly.”