COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11: UChicago medical experts address common questions


On Nov. 2, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for children ages 5-11. This video addresses some common questions about the vaccine for this age group, and is intended for the broad UChicago community, including the UChicago Charter School and Laboratory Schools. 

Visit the GoForward website for more information, and read the transcript below.

Featured University of Chicago Medicine experts:

  • Allison Bartlett, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Chicago Medicine
  • Daniel Johnson, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Chicago Medicine
  • Monica Peek, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Internal Medicine at University of Chicago Medicine

What do we know about COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds?

DR. BARTLETT: What we know is that the COVID vaccine for our 5- to 11-year-olds is very safe. It’s very effective—91 percent effective in preventing a symptomatic COVID disease in these children—and is well tolerated as well.

How does the data on vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds compare to vaccinations for other age groups?

DR. BARTLETT: What we know from the studies looking at the vaccination in children who are 5 to 11 shows that their antibody response to the vaccine is equivalent to that of both the 12- to 16-year-old age group and older adults as well. So, the same boost to the immune system. We also know that it provides the same level of protection against disease and has about the same level and severity and frequency of side effects associated with the vaccine.

Will 5- to 11-year-old children be getting a different vaccine dosage?

DR BARTLETT: Children will for this Pfizer vaccine be getting a dose that’s one-third of the dose that we’re using for adults. The way that we do pediatric studies is, we try to find the right dose that balances effectiveness of the vaccine and can minimize the side effects. In the studies that were done, giving kids 5 to 11 the adult dose led to a lot of vaccine-associated side effects, a lot of sore arms and fever. So we realized that dose was more than the kids needed. This one-third dose was the perfect balance of great immune response and minimizing the side effects associated with the vaccine.

What are the most common side effects of COVID-19 vaccination for 5- to 11-year-olds?

DR. JOHNSON: We have the data that’s been generated up to this point in time in a few thousand children, that shows that the vaccine has a very similar side effect profile to what we found in adults. Which is, that their arms hurt after they get the vaccine. They may have some redness there. They may have some swelling there. And that lasts for about two days, maybe three days. And then similarly, some children complain of being tired. A very small number, about 10%, reported after the second dose of running a little bit of a fever. But these are all things that are manageable with a nap or with taking an anti-fever medication like acetaminophen, in order to just make the person feel better.

If a child doesn’t get vaccinated and contracts COVID-19, what are the potential risks?

DR. JOHNSON: So, children who get COVID-19, they do pretty well. I’m really happy about that. But for the family where the child gets COVID-19 and gets really sick, those statistics don’t mean very much. Now, we know that about 100 children in the age range of 5 to 11 have died from COVID-19. And it’s about five times as many of that number if we talked about going up to age 18. In terms of hospitalization, we’re talking thousands. And so there are children who get very sick from this infection.

Click here to read the full transcript.

This story was first published by University of Chicago News.

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