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FDA committee will meet Tuesday to discuss COVID vaccines for kids under 12: Here's the latest

Kids as young as 5 could be eligible for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as early as November.

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Vaccine testing in kids has been a final step in the efforts to vaccinate the world's population against COVID-19.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

COVID-19 vaccination for kids as young as 5 years old will be here soon. Last week, the White House shared a plan to get kids under 12 vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying it "will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation." Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be authorized first, and recommended for kids ages 5-11 in early November. The drug-maker has submitted data to the US Food and Drug Administration showing its vaccine may have a 90.7% efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in kids ages 5 to 11, and the FDA's independent advisory committee is expected to authorize shots for children after reviewing efficacy and safety data this week. 

Additionally, Moderna announced Monday that its vaccine is effective in children ages 6 to11, but it hasn't submitted data to the FDA yet. (Moderna is currently available to people ages 18 and older.)

When the COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11 is authorized, don't expect the same vaccine campaign and mass vaccination sites that were used to reach adults. According to the Biden administration, efforts and resources will be channeled to pharmacies, doctor's offices, children's hospitals and school- and community-based centers. In other words, there may be a more personal approach. (As the New York Times noted, lines of crying kids at mass vaccination sites are best avoided, as children may not love the idea of receiving a shot in the first place.) Like all COVID-19 vaccines, shots for kids will be free. 

The COVID-19 vaccine shot itself may also look different for younger kids. Children ages 5 to 11 will be receiving a smaller dose of Pfizer's vaccine -- 10 micrograms instead of the 30 micrograms given to people age 12 and older -- and it will be administered with a smaller needle. 

In order to provide parents with information about the COVID-19 vaccination for kids so their families can make decisions, the US Department of Health and Human Services is also launching a national public education campaign about the coronavirus and vaccine in children. Children remain at low risk of severe COVID-19 disease and death compared with the adult population (of states that reported data to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 0.1% to 2% of COVID-19 cases in children resulted in hospitalization). But children can experience complications from COVID-19, including long COVID. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about one-third of parents said they would vaccinate their child age 5-11 "right away" after they become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

While kids age 11 or younger can't be vaccinated quite yet, teens ages 12 and up can be. As we wait on authorization and recommendations for younger kids, here's what to know now about coronavirus vaccines for kids. 

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When will kids be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Kids ages 12 and up are currently able to get Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. The other mRNA vaccine, Moderna, and the only single-dose vaccine on the US market, Johnson & Johnson, aren't available for kids yet.

An independent advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration is meeting on Oct. 26 to vote on whether the agency should authorize Pfizer's low-dose COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. Pfizer said in September that its vaccine is safe and effective for children in that age group. If an authorization is formally accepted by the FDA, an independent advisory committee to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet Nov. 2-3 to decide how the shots will be administered to children, and the CDC will need to formally accept its recommendation. Both agencies typically follow the advice of their advisory committees, so we can expect a final decision for kids ages 5 to 11 in early November.

Do I need to give consent in order for my young child to get vaccinated? 

Yes, parents generally need to consent to their children receiving medical care, which will include Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. This is especially true for younger children. 

However, if you have a teenager or child old enough to express a desire to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but their desire is different than yours, they may have legal precedent to seek one out, depending on which state you live in

In Tennessee, the rights of minors versus their parents when it comes to vaccine decisions came under the spotlight last summer when the state's vaccine director, Michelle Fiscus, was allegedly fired, in part, for sending out a memo explaining Tennessee's "mature minor doctrine," which is the state's writing on how minors may seek medical care without the consent of their parents in some cases. 

If my child is immunocompromised or has a health condition, can they get a booster? 

If your child is at least 12 years old, "moderately or severely" immunocompromised and vaccinated with Pfizer, according to the CDC, they should get a third dose of Pfizer. Moderna is only authorized for people aged 18 and older. Examples of people who are immunocompromised include people receiving treatment for cancers in the blood or tumors, organ transplant recipients, stem cell transplant recipients, people with untreated or advanced HIV infection and people taking drugs that could suppress the immune response, per the CDC. 

The boosters currently available to some Americans who received Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson only applies to adults age 18 or older. No minor is eligible for a booster. 

Does Pfizer's full FDA approval extend to kids?

The FDA's approval of the vaccine by Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, only applies to people as young as 16 years old. While Pfizer remains the only vaccine authorized for use in kids as young as 12 years old, vaccinating that age group is still under emergency use authorization rather than total approval. This is because, along with other factors, full FDA approval requires data on how the vaccine fares six months out, per NPR. Pfizer's vaccine was only authorized for kids aged 12 to 15 in May. 

This means that a vaccine mandate that hinges on full approval of a coronavirus vaccine, such as the one announced for schoolkids in California, won't apply to kids younger than 16 for a while.

My child has allergies. Can they get the vaccine?

"If the child has a history of anaphylaxis or other severe allergies, then the observation time after the injection may be 30 minutes instead of 15," Dr. Anne Liu, an infectious disease specialist with Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, said in August. So you might be asked to stick around the waiting room with your child for an extra 15 minutes so health care providers can monitor vaccine recipients for the (extremely rare) allergic reaction that can occur after any vaccination. 

Additionally, Liu said, children who are prescribed an EpiPen for any reason should bring it to their vaccine appointment. 

If your child has a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine available to them, they shouldn't take it, according to the World Health Organization. Adults allergic to any ingredient a COVID-19 also shouldn't take that vaccine. Find the ingredients for Pfizer on the FDA fact sheet, as well as Moderna's components.

Can my child get the COVID-19 shot at the same time as other vaccines?

Yes, according to the CDC, your child may get other vaccines when they go in for their coronavirus shot without waiting 14 days between appointments.

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Moderna is testing its vaccine on children aged 12 through 17.

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Should I worry about myocarditis? 

Myocarditis and pericarditis, or inflammation in the heart, is a rare side effect linked to Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, mostly in adolescent males and young adults. After looking at data and weighing the risks and benefits, the CDC still recommends everyone, including children as young as 12, get vaccinated. According to a Washington Post report, the CDC and FDA are looking into Canadian data that suggests Moderna might carry a higher risk of myocarditis than Pfizer, mainly in young people. 

When cases of myocarditis have occurred, Liu said, the cases have typically responded to treatment and resolved themselves, even when patients were hospitalized for a day or two. 

"COVID-19 infection can have much more serious consequences for the heart than the vaccine," Liu said.

The government in Singapore, where 82% of the population is fully vaccinated, recommends that people, especially adolescents and young men, refrain from strenuous exercise for a week after their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC recommends speaking to a doctor about when to return to sports or exercise following a diagnosis of myocarditis.

If I'm pregnant or breastfeeding, can I get vaccinated?

Yes, according to the CDC, because pregnant people are at much higher risk of severe COVID-19 and complications, including death, than people who aren't pregnant. 

Preliminary data shared by the CDC showed there was no increased risk of miscarriage among those who got an mRNA vaccine before the 20th week of pregnancy compared with those who didn't. 

My child can't be vaccinated yet. What should we do? 

When spending time with other families with children, it's best if everyone continues to wear a mask, according to Harvard Health, and they should isolate themselves if there's a COVID-19 exposure. Additionally, choosing more outdoor activities and avoiding crowds, even when outdoors, can help protect your kids. Parents and older siblings who are vaccinated should also mask up to prevent breakthrough infections that can spread to vulnerable people who aren't as protected, including kids. 

The CDC has prioritized in-person learning for students this fall, and it has guidance on prevention strategies schools should use to keep students and staff safe. 

Correction, Oct. 25: A previous version of this story included a sentence implying incorrect information about available vaccines for children age 12 and older. Only Pfizer's vaccine is currently available to kids ages 12 to 17. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.