Vaccinating Children Ages 5-11 Against COVID-19: It’s Time—and it’s Safe

COVID-19 vaccine

Being vaccinated reduces the risk of disease, reduces the risk of transmission, keeps our kids in school, keeps our kids playing and keeps our whole communities healthier and safer.

Susanne Tanski, MD

An important defense against COVID-19 was secured Tuesday, November 2, with the announcement that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) unanimously recommends the Pfizer mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 and considers it safe and effective. The news came just days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the vaccine Emergency Use Authorization. Vaccination plans for children are now underway nationwide—and across the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH) System.

Susanne E. Tanski, MD, section chief, Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), hosted a Facebook Live event on Wednesday, November 3, to provide details on upcoming vaccination clinics and the vaccine itself.

Opportunities system-wide

The two-dose vaccines will require a second appointment at least 21 days after the first. Families wanting to vaccinate their children can reach out to local pharmacies, which are already offering appointments online. Please note, it’s safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other immunizations, including the flu vaccine. 

Understanding the vaccine

Tanski explained that the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is not a smaller amount of the adult dose. While it is one-third of the dose adolescents and adults receive, it has slightly different characteristics, smaller needles and is packaged differently.

Studies showed that the antibodies created by the children’s dose were equal to those developed in 16- to 25-year-olds who had the higher dose. This is because the immune systems of younger people are more robust than in older people—leading to a better immune response at a lower dose, and fewer side effects.

In the 3,000 children studied, there were 91 percent fewer cases of COVID-19 in the vaccinated group. “There was not a single case of severe COVID-19 and not a single case of hospitalization,” Tanski said. “In addition, there was not a single case of anaphylaxis, which is one of those immediate severe allergic reactions…and not a single case or hint of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.”

Typical vaccine side effects include soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever, fatigue, chills and muscle aches. There is no evidence of long-term side effects, including on fertility. Medically-complex children should be protected as soon as possible with the vaccine.

“Being vaccinated reduces the risk of disease, reduces the risk of transmission, keeps our kids in school, keeps our kids playing and keeps our whole communities healthier and safer,” Tanksi explained. “This is a tremendous opportunity and an amazing advancement of science. I'm really happy to be vaccinating my kid to keep her safe.”

For more information, watch the 30-minute Facebook Live event on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock YouTube channel, and visit the D-H Pediatric and Adolescent FAQ web page.