The long-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine for younger children has made its way to Washington state. Parents and guardians likely have many questions about what to know and expect.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final OK this week for children ages 5 to 11 to get kid-sized doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.
The free two-dose series will be administered three weeks apart. Each dose is 10 micrograms — one-third of an adult dose.
As parents gear up to get their children vaccinated, or are still deciding if they should, here’s what to know about the COVID shot for kids.
Is the vaccine for children safe and effective?
Yes. Pfizer’s clinical trial showed a 91% efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic COVID infections among children ages 5 to 11, according to UW Medicine. The Washington state Department of Health said the vaccine was studied in 3,100 children, who received the vaccine and had no serious side effects.
Medical experts say vaccinating your child is the best way to protect them from serious illness from the coronavirus and to prevent spread. Vaccines are also recommended for children who were previously infected by the virus.
Can my child receive any COVID vaccine?
No. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has only authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children under 18. Children ages 5 to 11 will specifically receive a 10 microgram dose, which is about one-third of an adult dose.
Adults 18 and older can receive the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the U.S.
What are the side effects?
Clinical trials show the most common side effects among children who received the Pfizer vaccine are a sore arm, fatigue and a headache. No other serious safety concerns were observed.
How can I get an appointment?
Appointments are slowly becoming available, though Public Health – Seattle & King County says initially there will be more demand for appointments than available doses. There are approximately 183,000 5- to 11-year-olds in the county, and appointments will be available though doctor’s offices, school clinics and retail pharmacies.
DOH anticipates around 315,000 doses will arrive in Washington state in the first few weeks.
What can I do to prepare my child before they get their shot?
Experts advise not lying about whether the shot will hurt or when it will happen. They recommend parents instead validate their children’s feelings and tears. Parents can make a plan before the appointment and give children choices about how they want to be held, what to bring and where they want to look when they get their shot.
If possible, get the vaccination at the start of a visit to help minimize anxiety buildup. And for any nervous parents and guardians, try to keep your own cool to not exacerbate a child’s emotions.
Who has to give consent for a child to get vaccinated?
Adults can give consent for a child if they are a parent without a court order removing their ability to consent, a legal guardian, custodian or other adult with court permission to make health care decisions, or an alternative caregiver like a relative who is responsible for a child’s health.
Consent is given when booking an appointment online or by phone. When walk-in appointments become available, a consent form will be available on-site.
Children can get a vaccine without an adult present but only if authorized consent has been given and documented.
There are also special rules for children who are experiencing homelessness or aren’t under the care of a parent, custodian, guardian or the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families, according to UW Medicine. Consent may be obtained from a school nurse or counselor, or a homeless student liaison.
My child is turning 12 soon. What should they do?
If your child will turn 12 in less than three weeks after their first-dose appointment, they should wait until they turn 12 to start the adolescent vaccination series. Otherwise, UW Medicine recommends children ages 5 to 11 should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
If a child gets a first dose of a pediatric vaccine but turns 12 before their second dose, they should continue with the initial series and get the same level of dose as their first shot.
Can a child get a COVID vaccine with other shots?
Yes. Children can get a COVID vaccine along with a flu shot or other vaccines.