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When can kids get the COVID vaccine or booster?

James D. Campbell, MD, MS, FAAP

Answer

When can children get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines, including fall COVID boosters, are our best hope to move beyond the COVID pandemic. Now, an updated COVID booster dose is available that protects against new omicron variants. Anyone age 12 years or older is eligible for a single dose of updated booster if it has been at least 2 months since they received their last primary series dose or primary booster.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend COVID vaccines for everyone age 6 months and up and boosters for eligible children and teens. The vaccines protect kids from serious disease and hospitalization from COVID.

Many vaccines are given as a series of two, three or more doses spaced apart. Pediatricians call this the "primary series" of vaccine doses—the doses needed to build up your child's immunity. Some vaccinations require a booster dose. And the influenza vaccine, for example, is given every year to protect us from new and different strains.

Parents should not wait to get their child or teen vaccinated against COVID. As more contagious variants of the virus are spreading quickly and infecting more people, all of the COVID vaccines and updated boosters are especially important. All ages will benefit if everyone eligible gets fully vaccinated and boosted.

Do kids still need the primary series—or can they just get the updated booster? What about kids under age 12 years?

The primary series provides a base of protection against severe disease, including hospitalizations and death. If your child is 12 years old or older, they need to get all primary doses of any authorized COVID vaccine before they can get the updated booster. If your child or teen only got one COVID shot and it was several months ago, they do not need to start over. But they should get the rest of the primary doses recommended for them, and then the updated bivalent booster.

We do not know when an updated booster might be available for younger children. Before COVID vaccines and boosters are authorized for any age, a few steps must happen. First, the Food and Drug Administration must review the data and then authorize the vaccine or booster. Then, the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices and CDC review the information and decide whether to recommend it.

When do kids get each COVID shot or booster?

For COVID vaccines, the size of the dose and type of vaccine depends on a child's age. Babies and young children get a smaller dose than older children and teens.

Two COVID vaccines (mRNA vaccines from Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna) are available for babies, kids and adults. A third COVID vaccine (protein subunit vaccine from Novavax) is authorized for kids age 12 years and older. The Novavax, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines all are safe and effective options.

See the chart below for details on how many doses or boosters kids need, based on their age. Parents should note that additional primary series and booster doses may be recommended if a child has certain medical conditions or takes medicines that weaken the immune system.

If you are unsure about the timing of your child's vaccinations, do not hesitate to ask your pediatrician!

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Moderna vaccine

Novavax vaccine

Dose 1

Dose 2

Dose 3

Updated booster (Pfizer)

Dose 1

Dose 2

Updated booster (Pfizer)

Dose 1

Dose 2

Updated booster (Pfizer)

6 months – 4 years old

3-8 weeks after dose 1

At least 8 weeks after dose 2

6 months – 5 years old

4-8 weeks after dose 1





5 – 11 years old

3-8 weeks after dose 1

Original booster at least 5 months after dose 2*

6 – 11 years old

4-8 weeks after dose 1




12 – 17 years old

3-8 weeks after dose 1


At least 2 months after last dose (original booster)**

12 – 17 years old

4-8 weeks after dose 1

At least 2 months after last dose (original booster)**

12 – 17 years old

3-8 weeks after dose 1

At least 2 months after last dose


* Children ages 5 through 11 years who got the Pfizer primary series should receive the original booster from Pfizer.

** The updated fall booster is recommended for people age 12 and older—even if they received one of the original boosters—if it has been at least 2 months since their last booster dose.

Source: AAP Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccine Dosing Quick Reference Guide

Do kids need to wait to get the vaccine if they had COVID?

Talk to your pediatrician about the best timing for vaccination following infection. If your child has an active COVID-19 infection or had COVID between doses, they should wait to get vaccinated until they've recovered and are no longer contagious.

Children who recently had COVID can consider delaying a COVID-19 vaccine by up to 3 months as there is a lower risk of getting sick again during that time. But it is important to note that with the recent variants, some people have gotten COVID again within 3 months.

People still should get the recommended doses and updated booster even if they had COVID. This is because primary series vaccination and boosters have been shown to provide the strongest, broadest and most long-lasting protection, both in people who have and who have not had COVID infection previously. People who are not vaccinated and become infected also may be at higher risk of long-term effects from their infection (known as long COVID or post-COVID conditions).

One thing is certain: COVID-19 vaccines are preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death for hundreds of millions of people who've received them already. We are relieved that almost all children and teens can get the vaccines, so they can enjoy their communities safely.

More information


James D. Campbell, MD, MS, FAAP

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.

Last Updated
9/15/2022
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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