COVID-19 Update: Vaccines in Children 5–11 and Boosters

By Cate Fox (Communications Coordinator, ‘23)

*Note: This article was last updated on November 29, 2021, and thus certain figures may no longer be completely accurate.*

As the holidays approach, COVID-19 cases have begun to rise once again. The current 7-day average of new cases is up 16.1%, reaching approximately 88,482 cases. As of November 17, over 47 million cases have been reported. The upcoming winter holidays will bear witness to people gathering in large numbers; protecting one’s family marks an extra incentive that experts have been using to encourage non-vaccinated people to get vaccinated.

In late October, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5–11. For younger children, the Pfizer vaccine is distributed at a slightly different dosage. The FDA website states, “[F]or children 5 through 11 years of age [it] is administered as a two-dose primary series, 3 weeks apart, but is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than that used for individuals 12 years of age and older (30 micrograms).” As 39% of all COVID-19 cases under the age of 18 are within the 5–11 age group, FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock believes that “vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy.” While many parents are eager for their children to get vaccinated, some are still hesitant about the possible side effects it could lead to.

During the vaccine’s trial, it was tested in about 3,100 kids from ages 5–11 and was found to have a 90.7% effectiveness with no serious side effects. The only side effects found were fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches that mostly occurred after the second shot; most of the side effects subsided within one to two days.

Another topic that has arisen is that of COVID-19 boosters. Boosters have been recommended for all those who qualify, as experts are concerned that the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines may decrease over time. Currently, only people 18 years or older are eligible for COVID-19 boosters, and they can choose any of the three shots, regardless of which original shot they received. Those who do decide to get a booster must wait 6 months after receiving their second Pfizer or Moderna shot, or 2 months after getting the J&J shot. Although boosters are essentially just a third dose of the vaccine, they can be altered slightly to target a specific variant as the virus evolves. With this in mind, there is a moral aspect to whether or not people should be allowed to get a booster shot. Some people believe that we should be focusing on helping other people in different countries get their first shots, as many Americans already have at least some immunity to COVID-19.

There is a big debate on whether or not people should be getting boosters; nonetheless, experts have been working hard to try and keep people safe in any way possible, especially with the holidays coming up. It is expected that people will be traveling and gathering in large groups, much more so than last year when this was a logistical nightmare. With this being said, it is extremely important to stay healthy to protect yourself and the people around you from COVID-19.