Protecting Children through COVID Vaccinations

Approximately 28 million children in the United States who have seen their lives disrupted by the COVID-19 virus are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Yesterday’s endorsement by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky that children ages 5 to 11 can be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine is based on a thorough review process by both CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists.

According to CDC, COVID-19 vaccines have undergone—and continue to undergo—the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Similar to adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children ages 5 to 11. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm. 

While children have been less affected by COVID-19 compared with adults, children can get sick from COVID-19 and spread the virus to others. Some children may develop severe illness and those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness. COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months.

Vaccinating children helps protect them against the virus and reduces their chances of developing severe disease. Getting children vaccinated also reduces disruptions to in-person learning, sports and social activities. 

Many communities and doctors’ offices across the country have already begun distributing the COVID-19 vaccine for children, and states are preparing to scale up to full capacity in the coming weeks. Vaccines will be available at thousands of pediatric healthcare provider offices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and more. To learn more about the vaccine, speak with your healthcare provider.

Erin Norvell
Erin Norvell, MA, is the digital director for the CDC Foundation.