This month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a three-dose series of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and a two-dose series of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children six months through four years of age. This follows earlier authorizations for children ages five and up.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), more than two million children younger than five have been infected with COVID-19 during the pandemic, and more than 400 young children have died from COVID-19. This authorization makes the vaccines available to the 18 million kids under five who weren’t able to be vaccinated before.
We asked key members of Carilion's COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force the questions parents and caregivers are asking about when and how to get their little ones vaccinated. The Q&A below includes the combined responses from our experts:
- Chad Alvarez, Pharm.D., senior director of the retail pharmacies at Carilion Clinic
- Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie, M.D., medical director of Carilion Clinic Infection Prevention and Control
- Christopher Pierce, M.D., section chief of General Pediatrics at Carilion Children’s
Vaccines for Healthy Kids
Q: What’s new for pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations? Which age groups can get vaccinated and what does the vaccine schedule look like?
The CDC has now authorized Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations for children in the following age groups:
- six months to four years
- five to 11 years
- 12 years and older
Under the new authorization, children should receive their first and second Pfizer doses three weeks apart, with the third dose following at least eight weeks after the second dose.
The infographic below captures the typical Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination schedule for children from six months to 17 years who are not immunocompromised.
For those who will decide to receive Moderna, children who are not immunocompromised will receive two doses of the vaccine, with four to eight weeks between them.
Vaccines for Immunocompromised Kids
The schedule and number of vaccines required is slightly different for pediatric patients who are immunocompromised.
For children who are immunocompromised, the schedule of administration for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is shown in the infographic below.
Effects and Side Effects
Which vaccine is more effective for the under 5 group (Moderna or Pfizer)?
Both are effective for children six months to 17 years, and both are certainly more effective than not getting vaccinated.
What side effects do children under age 5 experience?
Side effects are generally mild and tolerable for many kids. During clinical trials, some children experienced these side effects from both vaccines:
- Decreased appetite
- Tenderness, redness and pain at the injection site
Fevers were similar to the fevers adults have experienced after vaccination. The Moderna vaccine seemed to have a higher incidence of fever compared to Pfizer.
What medicines can kids take for side effects?
Antipyretic or analgesic medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen can be taken to treat side effects, if those medications are medically appropriate for the child. This advice comes with two caveats:
- These medications should not be used prophylactically (to prevent side effects before they happen).
- In general, aspirin is not recommended for children due to the rare but serious risk of Reye’s syndrome.
How and Where To Get Vaccines
Where will children’s vaccines be offered at Carilion?
All Carilion Children's practices and offices offer the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for their patients. Some Pediatric offices will also offer vaccine clinic days. Contact your child’s pediatrician by phone or through MyChart for details.
What vaccines will be offered?
Carilion Clinic carries and offers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for our pediatric population. While the Moderna vaccine is not offered through Carilion at this time, it may be available at local retail pharmacies.
Are the vaccines still free?
Can my child get the vaccine together with other childhood vaccines?
Should kids wait until closer to the school year starts to get their vaccine?
No. Get it as soon as it becomes available in your community.
Don’t Forget Your Booster!
Can I get a booster shot at the same time my child gets their first shot?
In some instances where the child is aged 12 years or older, we can provide the child’s caregiver a dose as well to avoid waste since they receive the same dose. But in general, our pediatric clinics will focus primarily on child immunizations to ensure that we reach as many children as possible.
Find out more about adult vaccines and boosters on our website’s COVID-19 vaccines page.
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