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Experts answer top six FAQs on COVID-19 vaccine for children

Published on Wednesday, December 1, 2021

By: Annie Oeth,

Now that children ages 5 to 11 can receive doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, parents may have questions about the vaccine, the protection it provides and what to expect.

Pediatric experts at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and its pediatric arm, Children’s of Mississippi, have answers to six frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 and older.

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What COVID-19 vaccine is available for children ages 5 and older?

COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are recommended for those 18 and older, so the only vaccine available to those younger than 18 is Pfizer-BioNTech.

Children ages 5 to 11 can now receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, getting a third of the dosage adults receive in each of two shots administered 21 days apart. Just like adults, those 5 to 11 years old are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second vaccine dose.  

In November, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Previously, the vaccine was available to ages 12 to 15 through an emergency use authorization approved in May. The vaccine received full approval from the CDC in August for use in those 16 and older.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 to 11.

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Do children have side effects from COVID-19 vaccination?

Some children and teens have no side effects after COVID-19 vaccination, while others do. Most side effects are mild and go away on their own in a day or two. These side effects can include fatigue, muscle pain, headache, chills, fever and soreness at the injection site.

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Most children do not become seriously ill with COVID-19. Why should I get my child vaccinated?

While it is true that many children have not become seriously ill after a COVID-19 infection, others have developed pneumonia and have required ventilation and intensive care. Some children have developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, after COVID-19 infections, requiring intensive care. Children also can have long-term COVID-19 symptoms.

Unfortunately, as of Nov. 15, nine Mississippi children died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, according to the Mississippi Department of Health.

"It is a misconception that children are not affected by COVID-19," said April Palmer, professor and chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UMMC. "Children can and do have symptoms that are life-threatening. Children are much less likely to have severe COVID-19, but we have had patients with it end up in the ICU and have 'long-COVID' symptoms that can last for months." 

There’s also the risk that an unvaccinated adult or child could spread COVID-19 to others, including vulnerable family members, who could become seriously ill. 

"A child who has been vaccinated has protection from catching COVID-19, spreading it to others and possibly having severe symptoms and complications,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor of pediatrics. "Because of the risks of COVID-19 and complications such as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), we think vaccination offers the best protection from serious illness.”

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Does Children’s of Mississippi offer COVID-19 vaccinations to children ages 5 and older?

Yes, Children’s of Mississippi has free appointments available for COVID-19 vaccinations at the Batson Kids Clinic, located at 421 S. Stadium Circle in Jackson near Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Parents should make appointments for their children online at or by calling (601) 815-5300 or (888) 815-2005.

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My child is almost 12 years old. Should they get a child’s dose at 11 or wait until 12 to get an adult dose?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that 11-year-old children get the dose for the age they are now and not wait for their 12th birthday. Trials have shown that children had the same immune response with the lower dose as adults did with the larger dose.

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Who should you trust for health information about COVID-19 and your child?

Just as you trust your child’s pediatrician for other health questions, you can trust your pediatrician to answer questions about COVID-19 and vaccinations truthfully. The American Academy of Pediatrics also offers these resources for parents with questions about COVID-19 and vaccinations.

The above article appears in CONSULT, UMMC’s monthly e-newsletter sharing news about cutting-edge clinical and health science education advances and innovative biomedical research at the Medical Center and giving you tips and suggestions on how you and the people you love can live a healthier life. Click here and enter your email address to receive CONSULT free of charge. You may cancel at any time.