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How Long Do Kids & Teens Need to Wait Between Each COVID Shot?

​​​​By: James D. Campbell, MD, MS, FAAP

More than 16 million kids ages 12 years and older and 9 million children 5-11 years old have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. If your child or teen will be getting their second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccine, how long should they wait after the first dose?

If they are:

  • 12 years or older: they should get a second dose 3-8 weeks after dose 1.

  • 5-11 years: they should get a ​​second dose 3 weeks (21 days) after dose 1.

Kids age 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should get the second dose 3 weeks after the first dose.

Reasons for the timing

There are two main reasons why there is a 3- to 8-week interval between dose 1 and dose 2 for kids 12 years and up.

  • Research shows that in people age 12 years and older, the body can build a stronger immune response and better protection with the longer interval.

  • A longer interval also makes the very low risk of myocarditis even lower for males after the second dose. We know that the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis that has been reported mostly in adolescent and young adult males is very rare. But the risk is even lower for those who get the second dose up to 8 weeks after the first.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. It happens when the body's immune system reacts to an infection or other trigger. Symptoms of myocarditis can include abnormal heart rhythms, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Very rarely, males have experienced myocarditis within a few days after the second mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose. Most got better on their own or with minimal treatment and rest. Myocarditis also is caused by viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

The risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 is greater than the risk of myocarditis from the vaccine.

Are kids still protected if they got two doses of the vaccine 3 weeks apart?

Yes. If they got both doses 3 weeks apart, they do not need to repeat any doses. Children and teens age 12 years and up who have had a booster dose are even better protected.

Talk to your pediatrician about the timing that is best for your child.

Why can't children ages 5-11 wait 8 weeks between doses?

Children who are 5-11 years old had to wait longer than older kids and adults for their COVID shot. Now that it's finally their turn, parents may wonder if they will still be protected when they get the second shot 3 weeks after the first. The vaccine is very safe and effective for children ages 5-11 when they get both doses 3 weeks apart.

Remember

Researchers are continuously studying the vaccine to make sure it is safe and effective for all ages. We know that COVID vaccines are the safest way to keep kids from serious side effects of COVID illness. Kids who have been vaccinated are less likely to get multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children or need hospital care. If they get the virus, vaccinated kids are also much less likely to develop post-COVID problems.

More information

About Dr. Campbell:

James D. Campbell, MD, MS, FAAP, a pediatric infectious disease specialist based in Maryland, serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases.

Author
American Academy of Pediatrics
Last Updated
3/8/2022
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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