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What to Know: The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout for Children 6 Months and Older

Differences between Pfizer and Moderna, hesitancy, and other key considerations

June 20, 2022

Tomorrow marks another important milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic response as the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months and older begins across the nation.

Last week, the FDA authorized and the CDC recommended the emergency use authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children 6 months and older. The authorization is “welcome news” for many parents who have been waiting for the opportunity to vaccinate their children, said Dr. Denise Johnson, Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary and physician general.

“Parents can begin scheduling appointments early (this) week with many vaccine providers, including pediatricians and primary care physicians, who will have the vaccine available for administration as early as Tuesday (June 21),” Dr. Johnson said.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Vaccine providers by age groups:  Pennsylvania pharmacists are allowed to provide COVID-19 vaccines to children 3 and older. Parents seeking appointments for children under 3 should contact their pediatrician, family doctor, or other qualified physicians, the Department of Health noted.
  • Different timelines, different doses:  The two vaccines use the same mRNA platform but are given on different timelines. The three-dose Pfizer-BioNTech is given over an 11-week span and is one-tenth (3 micrograms) the size of the adult dosage. The two-dose Moderna vaccine is given over a month and is one-quarter the size (25 micrograms) of the adult dose.
  • Efficacy, side effects:  During CDC and FDA advisory committee meetings last week, the nation’s vaccine advisors reviewed the data and highlighted key differences between the two vaccines. Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine series appeared to lead to fewer mild side effects, but a third dose was needed to boost protection. For Moderna, the larger dose led to more protection after two shots, but some mild, short-term side effects were reported, such as fevers.
  • Addressing hesitancy:  About 18 percent of parents of children under age 5 said they were eager for their child to get vaccinated immediately, while 38 percent plan to wait and see how the vaccine is working for others, according to a May Kaiser Family Foundation report.
  • Multiple vaccines at once:  Children can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other routine recommended vaccines during the same visit, the CDC said.

“I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, CDC director.

The federal agencies have authorized the use of the three-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between 6 months through age 4. Moderna’s vaccine has been authorized for children between 6 months through age 5.

HAP encourages everyone to contact their health care provider for more information about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines for themselves and their loved ones.

Additional information from the FDA and CDC is available online.