Children were always going to be the toughest group to vaccinate against COVID-19, so it’s no coincidence that they were the last group to receive authorization for the shot; manufacturers and government agencies want to be extra careful to find the right dosing and safety profile for the youngest Americans.
The same is true for boosters. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about boosters for kids.
Which children are eligible for a booster?
On May 19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded eligibility of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for all Americans as young as age five and recommended that everyone in that age group receive a booster. “The primary goal of vaccination is basically to keep everyone from getting very sick,” says Dr. Stan Spinner, chief medical officer and vice president of Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care. “Studies have shown that just like in adults, immunity from the primary series of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine did tend to wane. Giving children five to 11 years old a single booster dose increased their immune response to give them more hearty protection against getting infected, and very robust protection against more serious consequences of COVID-19 that can lead to hospitalization or death.”
Right now, children can only receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster. That may change in mid-June, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC complete their review of data submitted by Moderna on the safety and efficacy of its shot for children.
When should children receive a booster dose?
The CDC recommends that children should get a booster dose five months after finishing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of two shots. For children ages 12 and up, that means a booster the same dose as their primary series, which is the same dosage given to adults. For children ages 5 to 11 years old, that means a dose one-third that of adults.
For children with weakened immune systems, their primary series is actually three doses of the vaccine, which gives them the strongest immune response possible and can reduce their risk of needing to be hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.