EXPLAINER: U.S. kids and the COVID-19 vaccine

Is my child too young for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Is it safe, does it work?

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for 5-11 year olds,

here is what you need to know about the vaccine for children.

EXPLAINER: The COVID-19 vaccine for children

When will they roll out?

The Pfizer vaccine has been available in the U.S. to kids aged 12 to 15 since May.

The shots for 5 to 11-year-olds are likely to be available early November.

Where will the shots be available?

Depending on the state - it could be in pediatricians' offices, pharmacies and schools.

Is it the same vaccine as the adult one?

Yes, but at a lower dose.

Pfizer and BioNTech have asked for authorization of a 10-microgram dose of the vaccine.

That's a third of the dose size given to people 12 and older.

The vaccine is still a two-shot vaccine, with doses given around three weeks apart.

Can you still use the children's dose on a small 5-year-old, or a big 11-year-old?

The dose is based on age and not weight, according to Brittany Kmush, who is an epidemiologist and professor at Syracuse University.

She says the vaccine dosing strategy has more to do with the maturity of the immune system rather than weight or metabolism.

Is it safe?

Safety data from more than 3,000 children who received the vaccine

in Pfizer's 4,500 participant clinical trial was generally comparable to that for 16- to 25-year-olds.

The most common side effects for children included

- fever

- headaches

- chills

which were generally reported less frequently and milder than for 12- to 15-year-olds.

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been linked to rare cases of heart inflammation called myocarditis, especially in young men.

Still, Pfizer suggests that the rate of myocarditis in the age group is likely to be lower than observed in vaccinated 12- to 15-year-olds due in part to the lower dose.

Does it work?

Pfizer and BioNTech said in September that their COVID-19 vaccine induced a robust immune response in the 5- to 11-year-olds in its clinical trial.

And that for this age group the vaccine showed 90.7% efficacy against the disease.

Why bother?

If children are less likely to get seriously ill from COVID, why bother vaccinating them?

Pediatric vaccination is a public health tool to prevent infectious diseases,

even ones that do not have high rates of mortality or hospitalization in children.

Children in the U.S. already receive vaccines for illnesses that have similar or lower levels of related mortality in kids

like hepatitis A, chickenpox, rubella and rotavirus.

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