The two-dose primary series of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 pediatric vaccine was made available to children 5 to 11 years of age as of November 2021. While many parents have been eager to vaccinate their children against COVID-19, questions and hesitancy may remain among parents who are deciding whether or not to vaccinate their children. Read on for additional information around the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and older from Dr. Sree Chaguturu, M.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark.
Dr. Chaguturu is also a practicing physician in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School. His articles have appeared in publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, and Health Affairs.
Getting your child vaccinated for COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone ages 5 and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against COVID-19. They have been found to be both safe and effective, according to the CDC. Widespread vaccination for COVID-19 is a significant way to protect children and their families and loved ones from COVID-19 and COVID-19-related complications.
It’s important to note that children are as likely to get infected with COVID-19 as adults and can spread COVID-19 to others, including at home and school. Keep in mind, the flu and COVID-19 spread in similar ways, through respiratory droplets or aerosols and cause similar symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, muscle aches and headaches.
Getting vaccinated also protects family members, including siblings not eligible for vaccination along with older family members or those that are immunocompromised who may be at an increased risk of getting very sick if they are infected. Vaccines help protect you and your whole family to slow the spread of COVID-19 in your community.
When looking to get a vaccine appointment for your children, our CVS Pharmacy teams are prepared for this important role and stand ready to answer questions and guide parents and their children through this process with kindness and caring.
Here’s what I can share:
What is the role of CVS Health® in administering COVID-19 vaccines?
CVS Health has administered more than 38 million COVID-19 tests and 43 million COVID-19 vaccines. CVS Health maintains a strong commitment to vaccine and testing equity and continues to optimize site locations and targeted outreach initiatives in order to reach vulnerable populations.
Is an appointment required or can I just walk in?
Families interested in receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11 years are strongly encouraged to make an appointment at CVS.com or via the CVS App in order to identify the location closest to them with available vaccine.
What is the difference between this vaccine and the one approved for adults?
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID‐19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years of age is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than that for individuals ages 12 years and older (30 micrograms).
What do you need to know about the safety of the vaccine?
On October 29, the FDA expanded the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer‐BioNTech COVID‐19 vaccine to include children 5 to 11 years of age. The FDA has determined that the Pfizer vaccine has met the appropriate criteria and will be an effective tool in preventing COVID‐19 among this age group. For more specific details, we recommend reaching out to the manufacturer.
Can children ages 5 to 11 receive the COVID‐19 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine at the same time?
Yes. According to the CDC, children ages 5 to 11 may receive the seasonal flu vaccine at the same time they are receiving the Pfizer‐BioNTech COVID‐19 vaccine. There is no need to stagger vaccinations. Additionally, if a child has already received a flu shot, they can receive their COVID‐19 vaccine at any time.
What happens if my child experiences side effects?
According to the CDC, children may have some side effects following the COVID‐19 vaccine, which are normal signs that their body is building protection. Common side effects include pain and swelling on the arm where they got the shot, headache, fever, chills, tiredness, and fatigue throughout the rest of their body. If a child is experiencing side effects, families should consult with their pediatrician.
Who is administering the pediatric vaccine?
At select CVS Pharmacy locations, trained pharmacists, pharmacy interns, pharmacy technicians and nurses will be administering the pediatric COVID‐19 vaccine. Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants will administer the vaccine at select MinuteClinic locations as they receive vaccine supply.
Is there anything parents need to know or bring in order to get their kids vaccinated?
A parent or legal guardian must complete the online registration on CVS.com and an adult must accompany children ages 5 to 11 years to the appointment at CVS Pharmacy or MinuteClinic. As with the adult COVID‐19 vaccination, children and their parent or guardian will need to remain in the pharmacy area for at least 15 minutes following vaccination for observation.
Will CVS be doing anything differently for the younger age group to make them feel comfortable?
We have selected locations for the administration of the vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 years, because they have vaccinators who are solely focused on administering vaccines. CVS Vaccinators in these locations have also received additional training on managing pediatric vaccinations to help ensure the best experience for children and their families.
In addition, we are developing an in‐store experience focused on reassuring and supporting the child and their parent or guardian throughout the process. This includes the introduction of various child‐friendly elements in the coming weeks to help motivate and reward the children and help keep them entertained during the post‐vaccination observation period.
I want to be there with my child during his/her vaccination, can I hold my child in my lap or be in the room?
Yes, parents and guardians must accompany children receiving their vaccine and are often encouraged to hold the child during the administration of the vaccine to help them hold still and stay calm.
In addition to CVS.com, Appointments for vaccines at hundreds of sites across the Commonwealth can be found on VaxFinder.mass.gov. For medical questions about vaccinating your child, we encourage you to contact your child’s health care provider.
For those looking to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, they are encouraged to make an appointment at CVS.com or via the CVS App in order to identify the location closest to them with available vaccine.
About the author: Dr. Chaguturu is also a practicing internal medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Lecturer at Harvard Medical School. His articles have appeared in publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, and Health Affairs.