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UPDATE: What Parents Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids Under 5


The Food and Drug Administration now says it will wait for Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, to release data on how well three doses of the vaccine works for children under 5.

The reversal by federal regulators was announced Friday, Feb. 11, after Pfizer-BioNTech requested the delay. The companies said new data from clinical trials showed a higher rate of infection with the omicron variant than previously recorded, highlighting the fact that two doses of the vaccine for this age group were not enough.

For families, this means the COVID-19 vaccine will not be available for this age group until later this spring, possibly April.  

You’ve probably heard the news about Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, asking the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5. This has raised a lot of questions for parents, and maybe even a little confusion. We asked Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s, to answer some of the big questions and shed a little light on the subject.

What is going on with the COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 5?stock - little girl

In early February, Pfizer asked the FDA to authorize two doses of their coronavirus vaccine for this age group. This created some confusion because the drug company released a statement in December stating that two doses did not produce the immune response they hoped for in clinical trials of children 2 to 4 years old. I think some people took that to mean the vaccine does not work for this age group, which is not the case. It means children ages 2 to 4 may need a third dose of the vaccine, but that research is still underway.

What’s the difference in the doses for this age group compared to older children and adults?

The dose for children under 5 is much lower than what’s authorized for older kids and adults. Pfizer has been testing 3 microgram doses for this age group while kids 5-11, have been authorized to receive 10 microgram doses. The dose for 12 and up (including adults) is 30 micrograms.

What’s the risk of my child developing myocarditis after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

We’re still waiting for the FDA to release their findings, but studies have proven that COVID-19 infection is more likely to cause myocarditis than Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Many viruses, including the common cold, can cause myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle. Most cases, especially in children, are mild. The risk of complications from COVID-19 infection far outweighs the risk of myocarditis from the vaccine. 

What should parents do if they have more questions?

Talk to your pediatrician. They have your child’s medical history and are the best source of information for this topic. They have the latest information available and want to help you make an informed decision.