COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Adolescents

On Nov. 2, the CDC recommended COVID-19 vaccination for children ages 5 to 11. Adolescents ages 12 to 17 are also eligible for vaccination.

Appointments for pediatric doses of the vaccine will become available across our region over the next few days:

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 can help prevent people from getting the COVID-19 virus and from becoming seriously ill. Getting vaccinated may also help protect the people around you.

At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children ages 5 to 17. For all age groups, this vaccine requires two doses. The second dose is given three weeks after the first dose.

  • Children ages 5 to 11 receive a lower dose (10 micrograms) than the dose individuals 12 and older receive (30 micrograms).
  • Children ages 12 and older receive the same dosage of vaccine as adults (30 micrograms).
  • Children ages 5 and older are eligible to receive a booster dose of vaccine five months after they have completed their first two doses.

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective in children and adolescents. Only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children ages 5 to 11 and for adolescents ages 12 to 17.

The vaccine has been studied in clinical trials — including here in the Finger Lakes Region — that focused on children ages 5 to 11 years old. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, approximately 3,100 children ages 5 to 11 received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study. These clinical trials also found that children ages 5 to 11 had immune responses comparable to those of people ages 16 to 25. In addition, the vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 to 11.

The CDC and FDA are continuing to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in real-world conditions, as well as in clinical trials.

Read about one family’s experience participating in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.

Read more about how the COVID-19 vaccines work in this information for parents from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19 can help protect your child and your family. Although fewer children than adults have become sick from COVID-19, they can still become infected by the virus, get sick from it and spread it to others.

Once children are fully vaccinated, they can safely return to many activities they did before the pandemic.

The only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for children ages 5 to 11 is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. For children, this vaccine is given at a lower dose (10 micrograms) than the vaccine for individuals 12 and older (30 micrograms). Like the vaccine for adolescents and adults, it is given in two doses three weeks apart.

The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in children are similar to those in adults. They are generally mild to moderate and include soreness in the arm where the injection was given, redness and swelling, fatigue, headache, muscle and/or joint pain, chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, and decreased appetite. In clinical trials, more children reported side effects after the second dose than after the first. Most side effects occurred within two days after vaccination and went away within one to two days.

Cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart’s outer lining) have been reported among adolescents and young adults who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. There were no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis among the 5- to 11-year-old study population. Reports of these conditions are rare, and the FDA and CDC have determined that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks of not being vaccinated. Learn more about these conditions.

No, your child cannot get COVID-19 from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or any other COVID-19 vaccine.

No. The vaccines cannot alter a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. Learn more about how mRNA works in the COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), there is currently no evidence that shows that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) in women or men. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 5 years of age or older, including people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccination and fertility.

Yes, it is recommended that anyone who has been sick with COVID also get a COVID-19 vaccine. It is possible to get COVID-19 more than once, and we still do not know how long a person is protected by natural immunity after they have recovered from COVID-19.

Talk with your child before their vaccine appointment about why the vaccine is important and what to expect when they get their vaccine. Answer any questions they have, and also talk with their doctor about any concerns you and your child have.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great tips on preparing for the COVID-19 vaccine and how to help children who are afraid of needles.

Your child may get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines — including the flu vaccine — at the same visit or without waiting 14 days between vaccines. According to the CDC, experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection (also called immune response) after getting vaccinated and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.

Children younger than 18 need consent from a parent or legal guardian to get a COVID-19 vaccine, except in the rare instances where they legally can consent to their own care (if they are married, parents, pregnant or in the military). It is strongly encouraged that a parent or legal guardian accompany children and adolescents during a vaccination to provide in-person consent for vaccination at each dose.

Children must show proof of age. Acceptable documents include:

  • Birth certificate issued by a state or local government
  • Student ID containing date of birth
  • Driver’s license, driver’s permit or non-driver ID
  • Current U.S passport or valid foreign passport
  • Permanent resident card
  • Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship
  • Military ID
  • Consulate ID
  • Life insurance policy with birthdate
  • Marriage certificate with birthdate

Proof of the parent or legal guardian’s residency in New York State is sufficient to show the child’s eligibility based on residency in New York State.

Proof of immigration status is not required to receive a vaccine. In addition, New York will not transmit any data that could be used to identify the immigration status of any individual. This includes, but is not limited to, name and address.

No, the COVID-19 vaccines are free to everyone who is eligible to receive them, including children, regardless of whether you have health insurance or not.

Appointments for pediatric doses of the vaccine will become available across our region over the next few days:

  • Check with your pediatrician’s office to schedule an appointment.
  • Some pharmacies — including CVS, Walgreens and Wegmans — anticipate offering appointments for pediatric doses as soon as this weekend.
  • Community-based clinics will be scheduled in the coming days. Check our website for listings.

The best ways to protect younger children and other loved ones who cannot be vaccinated are to:

  • Make sure that you and your family members who are age 5 and older get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people getting COVID-19 and can also reduce the risk of spreading it.
  • Wear a mask. Even if you are vaccinated, you may want to wear a mask indoors in public places, regardless of the level of COVID transmission in your area.
  • Ask all unvaccinated family members age 2 years and older to wear a mask in all public settings.

Learn more tips for protecting unvaccinated family members from the CDC.