Young Children Age 5 through 11 Now Eligible for Pfizer COVID-19 Booster Shots

Child wearing a mask and looking slight off camera

The most common side effects from COVID-19 vaccination are soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, body aches, and fever.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that children age 5 through 11 years old get a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty®) COVID-19 vaccine.

On May 17, 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine for this age group.

In the past few months, experts have learned that vaccine effectiveness decreases over time in young children, just as it does for adolescents and adults. A booster dose can help provide continued protection against severe COVID-19 illness.

Mini Kamboj, MSK’s Chief Medical Epidemiologist, has answers to your questions about the primary COVID-19 vaccine series and booster doses for children.

Which brand of vaccine can young children receive as their booster shot?

Children ages 5 through 11 are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine as their booster shot.

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When can my child get a booster dose of the vaccine?

Children age 5 through 11 who have a healthy immune system should follow this schedule:

1st dose

2nd dose — 3 weeks (21 days) after their first dose

3rd dose — This is the “booster dose,” and it should be given at least 5 months after their 2nd dose

Children age 5 through 11 who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should follow this schedule:

1st dose

2nd dose — 3 weeks (21 days) after their first dose

3rd dose — This is called an “additional dose,” and it should be given at least 4 weeks (28 days) after their 2nd dose

4th dose — This is the “booster dose,” and it should be given at least 3 months after their 3rd dose

Read more about additional shots for people who are immunocompromised »

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How do I schedule a primary COVID-19 vaccine series or booster shot for my child if they are an MSK patient?

You can schedule a primary vaccination series and a booster dose by talking to your child’s primary doctor at MSK.

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Is MSK offering COVID-19 vaccines to children of MSK staff, members of the public, or siblings of MSK patients?

At this time, MSK is not vaccinating caregivers or family members of patients.

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How do we know the vaccine is safe and effective in this age group?

The Pfizer vaccine was found to be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 cases in children ages 5 through 11, according to data submitted to the FDA in October 2021. That research also showed the vaccine was safe and that serious side effects were rare. A study conducted after FDA authorization to monitor vaccine safety showed no major concerns among 8 million doses administered.

As COVID-19 variants have emerged in the United States, including Delta and Omicron, an important CDC study analyzed the vaccine effectiveness against these newer strains. The study showed that protection against Omicron infection was lower overall, but the Pfizer vaccine lowered the risk of severe disease by about two-thirds in children 5 through 11 years old.

“It is encouraging to know that vaccinated children are protected from severe COVID-19 illness — that is what matters most,” says Dr. Kamboj. “Despite rapid changes in the virus, the vaccine still provides strong protection against all emerging variants.”

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Are the side effects in children different from those in adults?

The side effects are mostly the same for children.

The side effects from any COVID-19 vaccine booster dose are similar to those experienced after receiving the initial vaccine(s). Your child could experience soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, body aches, and fever. These symptoms don’t last long — about 1 to 3 days.

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If children are at lower risk of serious COVID-19 illness, why should they get vaccinated or get a booster shot?

It’s true that children are at a lower risk overall of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 compared with adults. However, the CDC also reports children can still become very sick. Like adults, children can also experience symptoms of long COVID that can affect their quality of life and daily activities. These symptoms are prevented by the vaccine.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a severe but rare complication of COVID-19 infection. Approximately 1 in 3,000 people who are younger than 21 will develop MIS-C. Studies among vaccinated adolescents have shown that the Pfizer vaccine is 91% effective at preventing MIS-C. In a study published in January 2022, 95% of children hospitalized for MIS-C had not been vaccinated, and all patients who required life support for organ damage due to MIS-C were unvaccinated.

Most importantly, children ages 5 through 11 are at least as likely to be infected as adults and spread COVID-19 to others, including in the household and at school.

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Is there risk of heart problems after the vaccine?

Research has shown that there is a greater risk of heart problems from being infected with COVID-19 than from being vaccinated.  

The group that is most likely to develop myocarditis or pericarditis after getting the COVID-19 vaccine is young men aged 12 to 39. These side effects have only occurred in people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine. They usually showed up after the second dose and within a week of vaccination. However, the risk of myocarditis after vaccination is very low.

Read more about myocarditis, a rare COVID-19 vaccine side effect »

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Should a child who has already had the COVID-19 infection take the vaccine?

Yes, it’s recommended that children who have been infected with COVID-19 should still get vaccinated. The vaccine is safe and effective for this group, and vaccination after infection increases protection against future infection and severe disease.

Those who were recently infected can get vaccinated 3 months after testing positive.

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Can children get the vaccine with other scheduled childhood vaccinations?

Yes. There is no specific time interval that is recommended between routine vaccinations and the COVID-19 vaccine for children.


May 26, 2022


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