COVID-19 vaccines and kids: Answers about the vaccine for children

Updated Jan. 19, 2023

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are open to children ages 6 months and older. UC Davis Health pediatricians offer answers to your questions about getting your kid the COVID-19 vaccine.

UC Davis Health is offering two vaccine options for children ages 6 months and older: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The CDC's recommendations are as follows:

  • Moderna: Children ages 6 months and older can receive two doses (monovalent vaccine) as part of their primary series. Children ages 6 months and older who have completed their primary series can receive a Moderna bivalent booster 2 months after their final primary series dose. 
  • Pfizer: Children ages 6 months and older can receive two doses (monovalent vaccine) as part of their primary series. Children ages 6 months through 4 years should also receive a third primary series dose of the bivalent Pfizer vaccine. Everyone ages 5 and older can get a bivalent booster at least 2 months after their final dose in a primary series.

Stay up to date with your COVID-19 boosters using this questionnaire from the CDC

UC Davis Health is giving Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children ages 6 months and older. We are offering the third primary series dose of Pfizer for ages 6 months through 4 years and the Moderna bivalent booster for ages 6 months through 5 years. (The Moderna booster is not an option for people who received the Pfizer primary series vaccines.)

To set up a vaccine appointment for your child:

Pediatric vaccinations are available at our clinics in Davis (on Covell Boulevard), Elk Grove, Folsom, Midtown Sacramento, Roseville, and the Glassrock Building on our Sacramento campus (this location will only have Pfizer).

View UC Davis Health clinic addresses

According to the FDA, the immune response of kids ages 5 to 11 was similar to the immune response in people ages 16 to 25. "The vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11," according to the FDA.

Pfizer-BioNTech released the data previously and the FDA has posted their data to the website. UC Davis pediatricians conclude that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and are glad to be vaccinating younger children.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose for children ages 5-11 is 10 micrograms (mcg), which is 1/3 of the dose for adults. It is given in two doses 3-8 weeks apart. Children ages 6 months through 4 years receive 3 mcg, which is 1/10 of the dose for adults. It’s given in three doses, with the first two 3-8 weeks apart and the third dose given 8 weeks after the second.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6-11 is 50 mcg, which is 1/2 of the adult dose. Children ages 6 months through 5 years receive 25 mcg, which is 1/4 of the adult dose. The vaccine for both age groups is given in two doses 4-8 weeks apart.

The CDC approved bivalent boosters made by Moderna for children ages 6 months and older. Bivalent boosters made by Pfizer were also approved by the CDC for children ages 5 and older. The booster shot can be given if it has been at least 2 months since the child’s last COVID-19 vaccine. That could be either two months after the final dose of the primary series or their last monovalent (original formulation) booster. The monovalent boosters were unauthorized in October 2022.

The CDC has also approved an additional bivalent dose, made by Pfizer, for children ages 6 months through 4 years. The bivalent dose is given as the third dose in the primary series and is not available as a booster to this age group.

You can schedule a COVID-19 booster appointment at MyUCDavisHealth or California's MyTurn.ca.gov.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine boosters and third doses

Stay up to date with your COVID-19 boosters with this tool

Yes, children may experience the same short-term side effects that adults may experience after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, including a sore arm, fatigue, fever, chills and muscle or body aches. Your child may experience more side effects after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine than the first, according to the CDC. Younger people have a stronger immune response to vaccinations. As a result, they have higher antibody levels following immunization, meaning their immune systems are working harder.

Children have a lower risk of severe illness, but that doesn't mean that they have no risk. The 5- to 11-year-old age group is also the highest risk for the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can be quite severe.

Read more: Child with MIS-C receives life-saving care at UC Davis Children’s Hospital

Kids Considered podcast: Benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccine for teens

Yes, health experts recommend getting the vaccine even if your child had COVID-19. There isn’t enough information to say if you have natural immunity from being sick or how long it may last, according to the CDC.

It is recommended that you wait until your child has recovered from acute illness and no longer needs to isolate (typically 2 weeks). Experts also suggest waiting about 90 days after recovery from COVID-19 (as reinfection is unlikely in the first months after infection). The waiting period can help lessen the reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccines have been one of the most effective tools in reducing the risk of vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. Requiring a vaccine for students is not new. With the addition of COVID-19, California now requires 10 immunizations. The Pfizer vaccine offers a similar rate of effectiveness (91%) as the polio (99%), measles (97%) chickenpox (90%) and mumps (88%) vaccines.

COVID-19 is less transmissible (3-7 transmissions per infection) than measles (12-18 transmissions) and chickenpox (10 transmissions), but similar to polio (4-6 transmissions). The case mortality rate for COVID-19 (0.008%) is less than that for measles (0.1%) and polio (0.05 - 0.025%), but higher than chickenpox (0.003%).

The CDC advises that your child can get a flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. You should talk to your child’s pediatrician if they are scheduled to get another vaccine around the time of their COVID-19 shot.

Learn how to get your flu shot from UC Davis Health

Children who have experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis after a previous COVID-19 vaccine dose or to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine should not be vaccinated. Also, children who experienced an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous dose or have a diagnosed allergy to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine should not be vaccinated.

There is no evidence of long-term effects from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

There's no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility. Furthermore, there is no scientific theory for how COVID-19 vaccines could cause fertility problems. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) briefing for both Pfizer and Moderna detail the findings from the clinical trials about effectiveness, safety, and side effects. There are no reports of any impact on fertility. You can read the 50-plus page briefings from VRBPAC to the FDA on both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently funding research studies to find out if COVID-19 vaccination can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.

The CDC says side effects in adolescents, including possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis “are rare, and the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks.”

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