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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 and boosters are our best hope to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, COVID-19 vaccines are here for babies and young children age 6 months to under age 5 in addition to other age groups already eligible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for infants, children and teens. COVID vaccine boosters are recommended for everyone eligible. There is no preference for the Moderna vaccine or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Safe & effective protection

The two long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines for babies, kids and teens were authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Children are not little adults; we can't just assume a vaccine will have the same effect on a child as it does for someone older. A transparent and thorough review of clinical trial data has been completed, showing the vaccines are safe and effective for these age groups.

As more contagious strains of the virus are spreading quickly and infecting more people, COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are especially important. All ages will benefit if everyone eligible gets fully vaccinated and boosted.

The COVID vaccine protects kids from serious disease and hospitalization from COVID. 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).

When do kids get each COVID shot or booster?

Many childhood 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.

For COVID vaccines, the size of the dose depends on their age, with babies and young children age 6 months to 5 years getting a smaller dose than kids age 5 through 11 or kids age 12 and older.

Additional primary series and booster doses are recommended for some children and teens who have certain medical conditions or take medicines that weaken the immune system.

All kids 5 years and up need a booster dose if it has been at least five months since they had their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine. A booster dose is not yet authorized for infants, children and teens age 6 months through 17 years who received dose 1 and dose 2 of the Moderna primary series.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Moderna vaccine

Dose 1

Dose 2

Dose 3

Dose 1

Dose 2

6 months – 4 years old

3-8 weeks after dose 1

At least 8 weeks after dose 2

6 months – 6 years old

4-8 weeks after dose 1

5 years old

3-8 weeks after dose 1

Booster at least 5 months after dose 2

6 months – 6 years old

4-8 weeks after dose 1

6 – 11 years old

3-8 weeks after dose 1

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

Booster at least 5 months after dose 2

12 – 17 years old

4-8 weeks after dose 1


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. They should also follow their recommended isolation period.

Your child still should get the recommended doses and 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.

In the meantime, make sure your children are caught up on their vaccinations against measles, influenza, whooping cough, and any others that your pediatrician recommends.

Does either vaccine protect against omicron?

Both vaccines led to antibody levels as good or better than the levels seen in young adults who had 2 doses of the same vaccine. In other words, 3 doses of Pfizer or 2 doses of Moderna in children under 5 years was equal to 2 doses of either vaccine in young adults.

We have seen less protection for children and adults against the omicron variant after vaccination. However, protection against more severe disease has persisted. A third dose has been beneficial for older children and adults in protection against the Omicron variant. 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 our youngest children now can get the vaccines, too, and 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
6/30/2022
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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