On November 2, 2021, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have announced the Emergency Use Authorization
for children ages 5 to 11 to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Torrance Memorial Pediatricians
Erin Hamilton, MD, and
Richard Brucker, MD, offer answers to some of the important questions regarding the authorization
for children 5 to 11 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Are you recommending children ages 5-11 get vaccinated for COVID-19?
Yes, we as pediatricians understand the importance of vaccines in keeping
children safe from a variety of diseases, and we are grateful to now have
a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for young children. COVID-19, especially
the Delta variant, has had a profound impact on young children. Nearly
6.4 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset
of the pandemic. More than 8,300 children 5-11 years old have been hospitalized
with COVID-19, and of those children approximately one third require ICU
admission. More than 700 children have died of the virus, making it one
of the top ten causes of death for children according to the American
Academy of Pediatrics.
Children who contract COVID-19 can also develop a complication called
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or “MIS-C.” Thousands of children have been hospitalized
with this condition which causes different body parts to become inflamed,
including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal
organs. MIS-C is most frequent among children 5-11 years old and typically
occurs after asymptomatic or mild infection.
As with the millions of youth ages 12-17 who have already received the
COVID-19 vaccine, the clinical trial results for children 5-11 have shown
positive outcomes, a robust immune response and few side effects. The
benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh risks of a COVID-19 infection
for children as well as adults.
My child is healthy. Why should I vaccinate my child?
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted children in so many ways. In addition
to the possible increased risk of morbidity and mortality to your child
from getting COVID-19, there are also many other direct and indirect impacts
of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. Since this school year began, over
2,300 schools have been closed and over 1.2 million students have been
estimated to be affected by the pandemic. Decreased physical activity,
missed school time, missed time spent participating in extra-curricular
activities, significant worsening of mental and emotional health and loss
of loved ones and caregivers are just a few examples of how COVID-19 has
affected so many children. When students are not able to attend school,
this often results in parents being unable to go to work. Wide use of
this vaccine would reduce the burden of COVID-19 in children ages 5 to
11. Using recent incidence of COVID-19, it is estimated every 1 million
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations in children 5-11 years of age could prevent
over 50,000 cases of COVID-19, hundreds of hospitalizations and MIS-C
cases in children. Vaccinating your child can make a huge impact not only
in their health, but the health of our entire South Bay community.
What is the difference between the COVID-19 adult vaccine and the COVID-19
vaccine being administered to children ages 5-11?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved by the FDA and CDC for 5-11 year olds
uses the same mRNA technology as the vaccine administered to adults and
older children. The main difference between the vaccine given to individuals
older than 12 years and the one for 5-11 year olds is the dose is lower.
Children in the 5-11 age group will receive one-third of the adult dose.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children ages 5-11?
Over the past nine months, hundreds of millions of people ages 12 and older
from around the world have received the COVID-19 vaccine and data shows
two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are highly effective in preventing
COVID-19 hospitalization. In addition to what we have learned with other
age groups, a recent study of over 4,500 children ages 5-11 also shows
the vaccine is safe, well tolerated and produced a neutralizing antibody
response that was 90.1% effective. What we know is the antibody response
in the 5-11 age group was comparable to those in previous studies in people
16-25 years of age.
What if my child has already had COVID-19?
It is important that your child still get vaccinated. We know the antibodies
do wane over time after infection with the virus. It is not surprising
that, based on data from the phase 3 clinical trials, children 5-11 years
old who had antibodies to COVID-19 prior to immunization developed higher
levels of antibodies after vaccination, when compared with children who
had negative antibodies to COVID-19 prior to immunization. While one might
think this means more side effects, it is reassuring that the rates of
side effects and adverse events were lower in children who had antibodies
at baseline. Following the guidance of the American Academy of Pediatrics
and the CDC, we recommend your child still receive the COVID-19 vaccine,
even if he or she has already had COVID-19.
What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine for children?
No serious adverse events were reported in the study of children 5-11 years
of age. Similar side effects were reported for the 12-18 age group. Most
common side effects reported were injection site pain (sore arm), redness
and swelling, fatigue, headache, muscle and/or joint pain, chills, fever,
swollen lymph nodes, nausea and decreased appetite. More children reported
side effects after the second dose than after the first dose. Side effects
were generally mild to moderate in severity and occurred within two days
after vaccination, and most went away within one to two days.
Why are people talking about myocarditis as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID-19 vaccines are being administered under the most intensive vaccine
safety monitoring effort in U.S. history. Through this monitoring we were
able to discover extremely rare adverse events. One such finding was that
myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, is a very rare side
effect of the mRNA vaccines. The observed risk after vaccination is highest
in males ages 12-29 years old, most often noted in the older teenage years.
When it happens, it most often occurs within a few days of receiving the
second dose of the mRNA vaccine series. Other infectious causes of myocarditis
include bacteria and viruses that cause COVID-19, the Flu, Hand-Foot-Mouth
Disease, Mono, Roseola and many other common childhood illnesses. Most
patients who developed myocarditis as a result of the vaccine responded
well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly. They had a less severe
course and recovered quicker than did those who developed classic myocarditis.
The risk of myocarditis after receipt of a mRNA vaccine is LOWER than
the risk of myocarditis associated with COVID-19 infection in adolescents
and adults. This helps explain why the benefits of vaccination outweigh
the risks. Children 5-11 years old will be receiving a dose one third
of what is given to older teens, and the baseline risk of myocarditis
is much higher in adolescents ages 12-17 years compared to children ages
5-11 years. During the clinical trials in children ages 5-11 years, there
were no reported cases of myocarditis.
Can I let the CDC know about how my child does after getting the vaccine?
V-Safe is a smartphone-based after-vaccination health checker that helps
the CDC track millions of vaccinated individuals’ experiences after
having received the vaccine. If you sign up, you can expect to receive
occasional check-in surveys that are very brief and will help with continuing
to monitor how children do after getting the vaccine. This will help in
comparing the child and adolescent experiences looking at millions of
vaccinated children, rather than just thousands. If interested, you can
sign up at
If I have questions about the vaccine, where do I go for answers?
Most parents have questions. We recommend parents visit online resources
such as the LA County Public Health at lacounty.gov and the American Academy
of Pediatrics website aap.org. Parents often turn to the internet for
health information about their children, but they may not know which sites
to rely on.
Vaccines for Your Children | CDC is the CDC’s vaccine website just for parents. This site was designed
based on research with parents and includes vaccine information tailored
by a child’s age, easy-to-read immunization schedules, vaccine safety
information, vaccine risks and benefits and much more. If you have additional
questions, make sure to ask your doctor during your next visit.
How else can we ensure our children are safe from COVID-19?
One of the most important steps to protect children is to ensure eligible
family members and adults around them are fully vaccinated. There are
currently about 66 million vaccine-eligible people in the United States
who remain unvaccinated. In places where vaccination rates are particularly
low, those communities remain especially susceptible to additional cases,
hospitalizations and deaths. Achieving a higher vaccination rate across
the board is the top priority.
What’s important for parents to know about vaccines?
Vaccines are one of the biggest public health success stories in the United
States. Because U.S. immunization rates are high, many vaccine-preventable
diseases don’t have the visibility they once had, and many parents
do not have experience with how dangerous these diseases can be.
Who should not get the vaccine?
Your child should not get the vaccine if he or she has had a severe allergic
reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine or had a severe allergic
reaction to any ingredient of this vaccine. Ask your pediatrician about
any immune conditions or illnesses that should be considered before vaccination.
Can my doctor give my child a medical exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Effective January 1, 2021 California passed a law requiring the California
Department of Public Health (CDPH) to review medical exemption requests.
Under the new law, clinical staff at CDPH (a physician or a nurse) with
expertise in vaccine science, including vaccine injury, will review the
medical exemption. Pediatricians at Torrance Memorial Physician Network
will abide by these regulations, and no medical exemptions will be submitted
to CDPH without definitive and verifiable medical contraindication to
If your child was 5-11 years old, would you get your child vaccinated?
Absolutely. We care about your children and are advising you the same way
we would advise our loved ones. Dr Brucker’s son just turned 5 years
old and is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. He will be getting the
vaccine as soon as he can get scheduled.
Where can my child get vaccinated?
At this time, Torrance Memorial Physician Network Pediatric offices will
not be providing COVID-19 vaccination. There will be many vaccination
sites offering the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine throughout
the South Bay, including Beach Cities Health District. Several local school
districts also plan to provide options for their students.
See below links to find a South Bay vaccination site for children ages 5-11
As more eligible Californians get vaccinated, the pool of people who are
vulnerable to COVID-19 and its variants shrinks. Every dose matters. Vaccination
protects the individual, those at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19
and those who are too young or who have complications making them ineligible
to receive it. With the holiday season approaching, vaccinating this newly
eligible age group will add a layer of protection for children and their families.