The COVID-19 Vaccine and Children Ages 5 – 11
Can children really catch COVID-19?
Yes. Individuals of all ages, including children, can contract the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as spread it to others.
What are the risks of my child being unvaccinated?
Those who are unvaccinated have the greatest risk of infection and severe disease from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death. This is true for individuals of all ages, including children.
Children are also at risk of a dangerous inflammatory condition called MIS-C which can occur several weeks after COVID-19 infection.
Vaccinating children will help protect them from getting COVID-19 and reduce their risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications. That’s why the New York State Department of Health urges all eligible New Yorkers including children ages 5 through 11 to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible so they are protected against the virus, healthy, and safe.
What is long COVID, and is my child at risk?
Children who contract COVID-19 may be at risk of long COVID. Symptoms associated with long COVID can vary widely, from cardiovascular symptoms like heart palpitations to difficulty breathing and excessive fatigue and can include difficulty concentrating or other psychological symptoms. Long COVID symptoms can occur even if the initial COVID illness is not severe and can last for months or even a year. Scientists are still working to understand long COVID.
What about immunocompromised children?
As of Jan. 6, 2022, children 5 – 11 who are at least 28 days past their initial Pfizer-BioNTech series may receive an additional dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
What immunocompromising conditions currently qualify children 5 – 11-years-old to be eligible for an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Children 5-11-years-old with certain immunocompromising conditions who received their Pfizer-BioNTech initial vaccine series at least 28 days ago are eligible for an additional dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Consistent with CDC's guidance, this includes moderately or severely immunocompromised due to a medical condition or receipt of immunosuppressive medications or treatments. Specifically, immunocompromising conditions may include:
Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
Advanced or untreated HIV infection
Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
Because of the risk of COVID-19 infection in this population, immunocompromised people should continue to be counseled regarding the potential for a reduced immune response after vaccination and the importance of additional protective measures, regardless of the decision to receive an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Prevention measures include wearing a well-fitting mask, staying six feet apart from others they don't live with, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider particularly in areas of increased transmission. Close contacts of immunocompromised people should be strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Parents or guardians with questions are encouraged to consult with their child's health care provider.
Safety and Efficacy
Which vaccine is currently available for children age 5 through 11?
Currently, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available for children age 5 through 17.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines have undergone – and will continue to undergo – the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Currently, the FDA has determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine meets the standards for effectiveness and safety needed for emergency use authorization for use by children age 5 and older. Parents and guardians are encouraged to speak with their child’s pediatrician or primary health care provider if they have questions. Additional information can also be found on www.cdc.gov.
Is the vaccine effective for children?
Yes, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine authorized for children 5–11-years-old is safe, effective, and the best way for you to protect your child from the virus. The trial study shows that the vaccine is as effective in children ages 5 to 11 as it is in people 12 and older. The vaccine is also effective against the Delta variant.
Which COVID-19 vaccine can my child get?
Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine available for children ages 5 to 17 in the United States. Other COVID-19 vaccines may become available for children in the future.
What are the side effects my child may experience after being vaccinated?
Your child may not notice any changes in how they feel after getting the vaccine. But it’s also possible to feel a little “under the weather.” This can happen after any vaccine. It’s also important to know that children ages 5 – 11 receive a smaller dose of the COVID-19 vaccine than adolescents and adults 12 and older.
After the COVID-19 vaccine, your child may have:
- A sore arm where they got the shot
- A headache
- Nausea and vomiting
These side effects are not dangerous and just a sign of your child’s immune system doing its job. Parents and guardians are encouraged to speak with their child’s pediatrician or primary health care provider if they have questions.
Will the vaccine give my child COVID?
No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines—including the mRNA Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine authorized for children age 5–11—can give someone COVID-19.
None of the vaccines are made up of materials that can cause disease. For example, the first vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA use a small, harmless part of the virus’ genetic material called ‘mRNA’. This is not the virus. mRNA vaccines teach your or your child’s body to create a virus protein. Your or your child’s immune system develops antibodies against these proteins to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if you or your child are exposed to it. That is called an immune response.
Will my child get the same dose of COVID-19 vaccine that I got?
Children 5 – 11 years of age receive a smaller dose than adults and adolescents 12 and older. The scientists that develop the vaccines and the medical health experts that approve the vaccines have found that the smaller dosage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is effective in children 5 – 11.
If my child is 11, should I wait for them to turn 12 so they can receive a larger dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
No. Parents and guardians should get their children ages 5 – 11 vaccinated as soon as possible with the appropriate dosage, which is based on their age at the time each vaccine dose is administered. Our nation’s best medical and health experts have worked to ensure that the vaccine doses for 5 – 11-year-olds are safe and effective – offering our children excellent protection against COVID-19 and generating a strong immune response.
If my child’s weight is closer to a 12-year-old’s weight, would that qualify them for the higher dose of the COVID-19 vaccine? Or, if my teen is underweight, should they get the lower dose?
No. In fact, weight is not a factor in determining the right dosage amount for your child. Instead, the dosage amount is based on age because age is what reflects the maturity of your child’s immune system. That’s why eligible children ages 5 – 11 should get vaccinated as soon as possible with the appropriate dosage, which is based on their age at the time each vaccine dose is administered.
If my child turns 12 in between their first and second doses, what should they get for their second dose?
Eligible children ages 5 – 11 should get vaccinated as soon as possible with the appropriate dosage, which is based on their age at the time each vaccine dose is administered. This means if a child who is 11 turns 12 between their first and second vaccine dose, then that child should receive the dosage amount for a 12 year-old for their second dose.
Why is only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for children age 5 through 11?
When a vaccine or medicine is authorized for emergency use by the FDA, it must meet rigorous standards for safety and effectiveness. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was first authorized for emergency use on December 11, 2020, for use in individuals 16 years of age and older. On May 10, 2021, this emergency use authorization (EUA) was expanded to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age. On October 29, 2021 the FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for administration to children 5 through 11 years of age. The FDA found that the Pfizer vaccine met the statutory criteria to allow the FDA to amend their EUA, finding that the known and potential benefits of the vaccine in children 5 years through 11 years of age outweighed the known and potential risks. To make this determination, the FDA studied available safety data from an ongoing randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial in the United States that included 4,695 participants ages 5 through 11.
Other COVID-19 vaccines may eventually be available to children once the FDA determines they meet their rigorous standards for emergency use authorization or approval.
Does the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine contain animal-based ingredients?
No! The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine contains no human or animal products, preservatives, or adjuvants and utilizes no ingredients of human or animal origin.
Do COVID-19 vaccines contain mercury/thimerosal?
No! There are no preservatives such as mercury/thimerosal in any of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for children ages 5 – 11.
Will my child need more than one dose?
Yes. Just like the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adults (and Moderna) and adolescents 12 – 17, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 requires two doses. However, it is a smaller dosage than adolescents and adults ages 12 and older currently receive.
Each dose will be given at least 3 weeks apart.
Once your child gets their first vaccine dose, it’s very important that they also get their second vaccine dose unless a health care provider tells you they should not get it. If you’re concerned about your child getting vaccinated, talk with your child’s pediatrician or a health care provider – including a doctor, nurse, or medical professional at a clinic.
Can my children receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time they receive other vaccines?
According to the CDC, there is no recommendation that any spacing is needed for your child to receive the COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines. This means your child can get the COVID-19 and other vaccines—such as their seasonal flu shot—at the same or any time. This includes together, before, or after other vaccines.
My child tested positive for COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 antibodies. Do they still need the vaccine?
Yes! The CDC recommends that individuals get vaccinated even if they have already had COVID-19, because they can be infected more than once. While your child may have some immunity after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last. Vaccination is safe, including in a child who has already been infected. Children who get COVID-19 are at risk of serious illnesses, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months.
Is it better for my child to get natural immunity to COVID-19, rather than immunity from a vaccine?
Children who get COVID-19 are at risk of serious illness, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months. While your child may have some immunity after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection lasts. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is safe and effective, and will protect your child against the virus.
Can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine if they are sick?
If your child is sick with COVID-19, they should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered. If your child is sick with an illness other than COVID-19, you can check with your child’s pediatrician or primary health care provider for advice on when your child should be vaccinated.
Can my child attend school while they have side effects from getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
Children can attend school following COVID-19 vaccination if they feel well enough to attend school and do not have a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms. If your child experiences the following symptoms, they should not attend school. These symptoms would not be expected from the COVID-19 vaccine, but might be seen with COVID-19 illness or other viral illnesses:
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste
- Loss of smell
Side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are not severe or dangerous, and it is not likely that they would cause a child to miss school.
What if my child is exposed to COVID-19 between doses?
If your child is exposed to COVID-19 after receiving their first vaccine dose but before their second dose, they should complete their quarantine before getting their second COVID-19 dose. This includes children who haven’t received either their first or second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. It also includes children with only one dose of a two-dose series.
Please let your child’s health care provider or vaccine administrator (e.g., clinic where your child will be receiving the vaccine) know if you need to reschedule their vaccine appointment due to quarantine. Completing quarantine before getting the COVID-19 will help protect those around your child from infection.
What’s in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine includes the following ingredients:
- mRNA: mRNA is not the virus itself. The mRNA vaccines (like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine) teach your body to create proteins. Your body recognizes these proteins and jumps into action, making antibodies that help you fight the virus, which is called an immune response. It reproduces the same immune response that happens in a natural infection without actually infecting your body.
- Lipids: fat-like substances that protect the mRNA and provide a bit of greasy exterior that helps the mRNA slide inside the cells. The following lipids are in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.
- Salts: help balance the acidity in your body. The following salts are in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, and dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate.
- Sugar: helps the molecules keep their shape during freezing. The following sugars are in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: sucrose (table sugar).
For a simple breakdown of the ingredients in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, see this infographic here.
How were the vaccines developed so quickly?
There are many factors that combined to allow the COVID-19 vaccine to be developed quickly and safely.
- Researchers got a head start on developing a vaccine because the virus that causes COVID-19 is similar to other existing viruses.
- Research about the new virus was shared almost immediately with scientists all over the world, which allowed work to begin on a vaccine right away.
- Some researchers were able to run phase one and two trials at the same time.
- The studies on COVID-19 included a larger number of people than other recent vaccine trials, meaning there were a larger number of people in the trials over a shorter period of time.
- The federal government allowed manufacturing of the most promising vaccines to begin while the studies were ongoing. That means that when it was authorized it could be offered to the public almost immediately.
This does not mean the COVID-19 vaccine is not safe. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and will protect your child against the virus.
What are mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that is authorized for children 5 through 11?
mRNA vaccines, including the mRNA Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 through 11, help your body protect itself against future infection. Your body gains protection without getting seriously sick with COVID-19.
On the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19 is a “spike protein.” When you get vaccinated, the mRNA vaccine instructs your cells to make a harmless piece of this protein. The “spike protein” is then displayed by some of your cells. The mRNA in the vaccine degrades quickly.
Your immune system will recognize that this protein does not belong. It will then make antibodies against it. This is similar to what happens if you get naturally infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. In a natural infection the virus itself forces your cells to make the spike protein along with other viral proteins.
What happens inside my child’s body when they get a vaccine, such as a COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein. This protein, or piece of the protein, will trigger an immune response in your body. The process is sometimes called either a blueprint or instructions. The body uses this information to create a response to keep you safe from the virus. The vaccine itself then breaks down and falls apart in the body right away.
How can I be sure that the COVID-19 vaccine does not change my child’s DNA?
The COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your or your child’s DNA in any way. Both mRNA (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) and viral vector (Janssen/Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines deliver instructions to our cells. However, the instructions never enter the nucleus of the cell, where DNA is located.
They tell our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine itself breaks down and falls apart in the body right away.
Allergies and/or Reporting Adverse Events
Who should not get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
According to the FDA, individuals should not get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine if they:
- had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine
- had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of this vaccine.
Is it possible for my child to have an allergic reaction?
There is a remote chance that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine could cause an allergic reaction. People can have allergic reactions to any medication or biological product, including vaccines. Most allergic reactions occur shortly after a vaccine is administered, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that persons with a history of anaphylaxis (due to any cause) are observed for 30 minutes after vaccination, while all other persons are observed for 15 minutes after vaccination. All vaccination sites must be equipped to ensure appropriate medical treatment is available in the event of an unlikely allergic reaction. The CDC recommends anyone with an allergy to "any component" of the vaccine not get the vaccine.
What are the signs of a severe allergic reaction to the Pfizer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
The chance of a severe allergic reaction is remote. Severe allergic reactions usually occur within minutes after getting a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of your face and throat
- A fast heartbeat
- A bad rash all over your body
- Dizziness and weakness
What are the risks of my child having myocarditis and pericarditis from the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
The chance of having either occur is very low. Cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) have been reported both in adolescents and young adults who contracted the COVID-19 virus and in those receiving one of these two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. These reports are rare, and the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis. The FDA advises that you tell the vaccination provider about your child’s medical conditions, including if your child has had myocarditis or pericarditis in the past. You should seek medical attention right away if your child has any of the following symptoms after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart
Are other choices available for preventing COVID-19 in children age 5 through 11 besides the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
According to the FDA, currently there is no authorized alternative vaccine available for prevention of COVID-19. Other COVID-19 vaccines may eventually be available to children once the FDA determines they meet their rigorous standards for emergency use authorization or approval.
My child has allergies. Can they be vaccinated?
If your child has an allergy to any ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, or to a previous dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, they should not receive this vaccine. Here are ingredients for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
If your child has had an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to another vaccine or injectable therapy, it is a precaution to getting a COVID-19 vaccine. This does not mean that your child cannot get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. You should talk with your child’s health care provider about the risks and benefits of your child getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
People with other allergies not related to a vaccine or other injectable therapy may get a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes allergies to food, pets, venom, environmental allergies, or allergies to medications taken by mouth. Children with these types of allergies may get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
If you have any questions or concerns about the risks and benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for your child, you should speak with your child’s health care provider.
Where can I find COVID-19 vaccine for my child?
Parents and guardians should contact their child’s pediatrician or primary health care provider to see if they are administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
New York parents and guardians can also visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby vaccine locations. Make sure that the provider offers the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5 – 11. If you select a site that offers walk-in appointments, we encourage you to call ahead, if possible. This way you can be sure they provide the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to your child.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine free?
All COVID-19 vaccines are free and available at no cost. There is also no charge for the injection or administration of the vaccine. This includes the COVID-19 vaccine for children. Health care providers who give COVID-19 vaccines must vaccinate everyone – whether or not they have health insurance.
What is the risk of heart issues with the vaccine?
Rare cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This happened with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Pfizer BioNTech is authorized for ages 5 and older. Moderna is currently authorized only for ages 18 and older. Most cases of myocarditis have been reported in teen boys and young men. It happened more often after the second dose – and usually within several days of getting the vaccine. Most patients with myocarditis or pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) who received care responded well to medicine and rest. They recovered and felt better quickly.
In the studies involving children ages 5 to 11, there were no reported incidents of heart issues. There is a greater risk of heart issues if a child develops COVID-19 illness. COVID-19 illness itself can also cause myocarditis that may be severs. Additionally, myocarditis can be part of the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children (MIS-C), which may occur around 3 to 5 weeks after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. MIS-C is a rare but serious COVID-19-associated condition. It occurs in less than one percent of children with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Can COVID-19 vaccines affect puberty and/or the future fertility of my child?
No. There is no evidence that any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility side effects. Additionally, the vaccine does not affect puberty in any way. For more information, visit ny.gov/getthevaxfacts.
Parents, guardians, and community members should all be aware of good sources of information from trusted, credible organizations regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and children. New York State recommends the following links for those seeking more information, as well as resources that can help explain and guide conversations with their children.
Where can I find more information about the COVID-19 vaccines?
It is very important to know that the sources of COVID-19 vaccine information that you use are trusted sources of accurate information – so you can make informed decisions about your health and the health of your child.
In addition to this dedicated website for New York parents and guardians of children 5 – 11 years-old, visit New York State’s #GetTheVaxFacts page for credible, accurate information New York parents and guardians can trust: ny.gov/getthevaxfacts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of these trusted sources. Information on COVID-19 vaccines can be found on this CDC webpage.
- Here's information on COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens.
- CDC’s “Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination” webpage is also very helpful.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has a Vaccine Education Center. On this website you can find trusted information about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.
- The CHOP Vaccine Education Center also has a mobile app, “Vaccines on the Go: What You Should Know.” It offers helpful information about vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is another source of trusted information. Pediatricians provide information on AAP’s COVID-19 webpage. They cover many topics related to COVID-19 and children. The following are some of the topics related to COVID-19 vaccines:
- “The Science Behind COVID-19 Vaccines: Parent FAQs"
- “Getting Your Child Ready for the COVID-19 Vaccine"
- “State report of pediatric cases, hospitalizations and deaths”
- The “healthychildren.org” website has a FAQ webpage about the COVID-19 vaccines. The answers are from the Academy of Pediatrics.
For general resources and information:
- KidsHealth's "Resources to Help Explain COVID-19 to Children"
For helpful videos that can help parents and guardians explain the COVID-19 vaccine to children:
- University of Michigan's "All About Coronavirus: A Video for Kids and Their Families"
- Unicef's "COVID-19 Vaccines Explained in 4 Levels of Difficulty"