Vaccinating Youth

Content last updated May 20, 2022

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Vaccine Safety and Efficacy

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Getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19 can:

  • Help lower the risk of them getting infected with COVID-19
  • Reduce their chance of getting seriously ill, if they do become infected with COVID-19
  • Reduce their chance of needing hospitalization and lower their risk of dying from COVID-19
  • Help prevent them from getting infected with a COVID-19 variant
  • Add to the number of people in the community who are protected from getting COVID-19 — making it harder for the disease to spread
  • Reduce disruptions to in-person learning and activities by helping curb community transmission of COVID-19

Clinical Trials

Children ages 5-11

  • Approximately 3,100 children ages 5 through 11 received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials. No serious side effects have been detected in the study, which is ongoing.
  • The immune responses of children ages 5 through 11 were comparable to those of individuals ages 16 through 25 years of age.
  • The vaccine was nearly 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11.

Children ages 12-15

Vaccine Authorization

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The Pfizer vaccine is available for kids ages 5-15 under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), and fully approved for ages 16+.

An EUA allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make a product available during a declared state of emergency before it has a full license. The purpose of emergency use authorization is to ensure that people can get lifesaving vaccines prior to a longer-term analysis of data. EUA still requires a very thorough review of clinical data—just over a shorter period of time.

Any EUA granted by the FDA is further vetted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

What we know: The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for kids ages 5+. What it means: It's ready. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been proven safe and effective for young kids.

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents and Guardians

Why should I be concerned about my child getting COVID-19?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 12 million children in the United States have gotten COVID-19. New COVID-19 variants are more dangerous and infectious to children than the original strains and led to peak COVID-19 hospitalizations among youth.

While COVID-19 is often milder in children than adults, children can still get very sick and spread it to friends and family who are immunocompromised or vulnerable in other ways.

Children who are infected with COVID-19 can develop “long COVID-19” or persistent symptoms that often include brain fog, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath. Vaccination is the best way to keep kids healthy and safe.

Children who get infected with COVID-19 may be at greater risk for Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. While it is still unknown what causes MIS-C, many children with MIS-C had COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care.

Is the vaccine required for K-12 school entry?

The Washington State Board of Health, not the Department of Health, has the authority to create immunization requirements for children in K-12 schools RCW 28A.210.140. There is no school or childcare requirement for COVID-19 vaccine at this time.

Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

No. Your child will get the vaccine at no cost to you. The federal government pays for the full cost of the vaccine.

If you have public or private health insurance, your vaccine provider may bill them to get reimbursed for the vaccine administration fee. If you do not have insurance, the federal government offers a program that will pay the provider to administer your vaccination.

You should not be charged out of pocket costs or receive a bill from your provider for the COVID-19 vaccine administration fee. This applies to people who have private insurance, have Apple Health (Medicaid), have Medicare, or are uninsured.

What are common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in children?

The health risks if children are infected with COVID-19 are much higher than the risk of vaccine side effects.

Like other vaccines, the most common side effects are a sore arm, tiredness, headache, and muscle pain. These symptoms are usually mild.

In clinical trials more children reported side effects after the second dose than after the first dose. Side effects were generally mild to moderate in severity and occurred within two days after vaccination, and most went away within one to two days.

What ingredients are in the Pfizer vaccine?

The ingredients in the Pfizer vaccine are pretty typical for a vaccine. The vaccine contains the active ingredient of mRNA along with other ingredients like fats, salts, and sugars that protect the active ingredient, help it work better in the body, and protect the vaccine during storage and transport.

The Pfizer vaccine does not contain human cells (including fetal cells), the COVID-19 virus, latex, preservatives, or any animal by-products including pork products or gelatin. The vaccines are not grown in eggs and do not contain any egg products.

See this Q&A webpage from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for more information about ingredients.

Which vaccine brand can my child get?

The Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine is the only one authorized for children ages 5 to 17. No other COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for people younger than 18 at this time.

Will my child need a booster dose?

Currently, booster doses are only recommended for people 5 years and older. People ages 17 and younger can only get the Pfizer vaccine for their booster dose.

How many doses does my child need?

All children are recommended to receive at least two-doses. Additional doses may be recommended to be considered up-to-date.

  • Children ages 5-11 get a pediatric dose, which is a different amount than the adolescent and adult version.
  • Children ages 12-17 are eligible for the adolescent/adult dose.

Children ages 5 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should receive an additional primary dose 28 days after their 2nd shot and all children 5+ should receive a booster dose. Additional doses for other groups may be recommended in the future.

Please review the CDC guidelines for immunocompromised people or visit the DOH website.

Who should I talk to if I have questions about the vaccine?

Talk with your child's pediatrician or other trusted medical provider, talk with a community health worker, or read information at www.CovidVaccineWA.org.

Is the vaccine for ages 5-11 the same vaccine for 12+?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5–11-year-olds is the same vaccine ingredients, but a smaller dose, one-third the size.

The current product for adults and adolescents should not be used in children ages 5-11.

Where can I take my child to get vaccinated?

Washington state provides all recommended vaccines at no cost for children through age 18. Ask your child’s pediatrician or regular clinic if they carry the COVID-19 vaccine.

Families who do not have a health care provider already can call the Help Me Grow WA Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or go to ParentHelp123.org to find a health care provider, clinic, or other health resources. This service is free and language assistance is available.

You can also visit the Vaccine Locator and use the filter to see a list of places near you that have the pediatric vaccine.

Can my child receive the COVID-19 vaccine when they get other vaccines like for flu?

Yes. Your child can get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time they get other vaccines.

You do not need to schedule your child's required school vaccinations or other recommended vaccines separately from COVID-19 vaccination. A COVID-19 vaccine appointment is another opportunity to get your child caught up on all of their recommended vaccines.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be required for my child to attend child care or day camps?

The Washington State Board of Health determines which vaccines are required for schools and child care. There is no school or child care requirement for COVID-19 vaccine at this time.

For day camps, check with the organization running the camp to find out what their requirements are.