Looking for a COVID shot for your kid? 11 questions, answered

Kids wait in line for a vaccine.
Children watch as pharmacist Colleen Teevan reconstitutes the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids before administering it at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn., on Nov. 2.
Joseph Prezioso | AFP via Getty Images

Updated: Jan. 27, 2022 | Posted: Oct. 28, 2021

Vaccinations are available to U.S. children as young as 5.

On Nov. 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final OK for youngsters age 5 to 11 to get kid-size doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

The shots are being offered at pediatricians offices, clinics and pharmacies. Like COVID-19 vaccines for adults, they are free.

Minnesota officials released details in late October about the state's plan to vaccinate children against COVID-19.

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There are about 500,000 kids in that age group, which has seen a lot of COVID cases. Experts say that vaccinating these younger kids will not only protect them from the virus, but also blunt its spread.

Here are some things to know.

1) Where will kids be able to get vaccinated?

Vaccines are being offered at pediatricians offices, clinics and pharmacies. Like COVID-19 vaccines for adults, they are free.

Here’s where parents can make appointments.

CVS: Scheduling is available for appointments at a handful of sites in Minnesota.

Essentia Health: Appointments can be made online through MyChart or by phone at 833-494-0836.

HealthPartners: Parents can schedule appointments online.

Hy-Vee: Parents and guardians can schedule appointments online.

M Health Fairview: Sign in to MyChart, call 612-336-2690, or call a local Fairview pharmacy to make an appointment.

Mall of America: Appointments are available at this community vaccination site.

Mayo Clinic: Parents and legal guardians can schedule appointments using their Patient Online Services caregiver account or the Mayo Clinic App to schedule an appointment for their 5- to 11-year-old. If they don't have a caregiver account for their 5- to 11-year-old and would like to set up one, they can call Mayo Clinic Customer Assistance at 877-858-0398.

Sanford Health: Parents can schedule vaccines through My Sanford Chart or by calling 877-701-0779.

Walgreens: Scheduling is available online.

The state has also launched a new webpage to help Minnesota parents find a vaccine for their children or answer questions.

Note: Parents may need to be with their kids to provide consent when they get shots, depending on where they get them and who administers them.

2) How many vaccines will be available right away?

More than 1,100 providers like doctors and pharmacies will be able to provide those doses.

Right out of the gate, Minnesota had 255,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine available — that's enough for about half this population. So, it wasn’t a mad rush to find a vaccine like it was last spring.

3) How well do the shots work?

In a study, Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine proved nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection. Vaccinated youngsters developed levels of virus-fighting antibodies as strong as teens and young adults who’d received the full-strength dose.

3) Is this vaccine different than the ones that have been given to teenagers and adults?

In some ways, yes. Smaller people get smaller doses. Children ages 5 to 11 will receive a third of the dose given to teens and adults. That’s 10 micrograms per shot for youngsters, compared to 30 micrograms per shot for everyone 12 and older.

These vials will also have orange caps to distinguish them from flu shots and COVID boosters that are being given right now.

Some things are exactly the same.

Kids will need two doses of the Pfizer shot, three weeks apart. And they won't be considered fully immunized until two weeks after their second dose.

4) What about side effects?

Clinical trials show that some children may experience mild side effects from the Pfizer vaccine, including sore legs or arms and some fatigue.

5) In general, kids don't typically get severely ill, hospitalized or die from the virus. So why vaccinate kids?

Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious disease Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse said there are other risks to kids who contract COVID like multisystem inflammatory syndrome, as well as the impact of long COVID, which turns up in kids, too.

She also said that kids do get hospitalized for this virus.

"It is relatively uncommon for children to end up in ICU or to die from COVID-19. But from having spoken to parents and children who have ended up in the ICU, I can say rare doesn't really feel rare when it's your own child sitting in that ICU bed,” she said.

Health experts say the other big benefit is that vaccinating kids effectively shrinks the virus's ecosystem: COVID is less likely to be transmitted, and with fewer opportunities to transmit, there are fewer opportunities for it to mutate into something more contagious and dangerous.

6) What if my child is about to turn 12?

CDC said children should get the dose that’s right for their age on the day of vaccination. So if a child gets the 10-microgram dose for the first shot and then turns 12, the second shot should be the 30-microgram dose.

7) Should I just wait until their 12th birthday so both shots are the bigger dose?

Pediatricians say not to postpone vaccination because the kid-size dose is effective in that age group.

8) Are the other vaccines also available for kids?

Moderna also is studying its vaccine in young children. Moderna said that a low dose of its COVID vaccine is safe and appears to work in 6- to 11-year-olds.

And stay tuned: Pfizer and Moderna are testing low doses in babies and preschoolers.

9) What if my child already had COVID-19?

They still should be vaccinated once they’ve recovered, according the CDC. It’s clear that prior infection does provide some protection against another bout but that immunity can vary depending on how seriously ill someone was, and how long ago. Studies of adults have found that vaccination after infection can dramatically boost protection.

10) Is the CDC’s move a mandate?

No. The CDC has not mandated vaccinations for youngsters, but recommended them.

11) My kids hate shots. Any tips for preparing them?

Cub Foods pharmacy director Aaron Sapp said parents shouldn't spring the shots on their kids at the last minute.

"Whereas an adult you're in and out rather quickly, as a child, we will give them 15-20 minutes just to come in and relax a little bit and get their vaccination," Sapp said. "You just have to plan a little differently."

What questions do you have about vaccines for kids?