When Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Be Available for Kids, and Will It Be Safe for Your Family?

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization to two COVID-19 vaccines, and millions of high-risk individuals across the U.S. – including our Connecticut Children’s healthcare heroes – have already received their doses. This is a historic moment, and a hopeful one.

We know that many families are eager to hear what happens next.

Connecticut Children’s Physician-in-Chief Juan Salazar, MD, MPH, shares what we know so far.


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Now that both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines are available, when can my family get vaccinated?

Having two authorized vaccines is a huge step forward in our fight against coronavirus.

But unless your family includes a healthcare worker, a frontline essential worker, or someone who’s considered high-risk due to their age or an underlying medical condition, your family probably won’t have access to the vaccine until spring 2021. And it could be months after that before a vaccine is available for kids under age 16.

Why will it take so long for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to become widely available?

It takes a lot of time to manufacture and distribute these vaccines, so the government has to decide who needs the COVID-19 vaccine first (and second, and third – and so on).

The vaccine was given to healthcare workers first, who are at the highest risk for infection, and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. In Connecticut, the next available doses are going to individuals who are at risk for more severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults and those with certain medical conditions, then essential workers in higher-risk settings.

After that, the vaccine could become available to the general adult population, plus teens ages 16 and older.

> Related: Now That There’s a COVID-19 Vaccine, When Will Life Go Back to “Normal”?

What ages has the COVID-19 vaccine been authorized for?

Pfizer’s vaccine has been authorized for ages 16 and up. Moderna’s vaccine is currently authorized for ages 18 and up. Both companies have begun clinical trials for younger kids – more on that below.

Since Pfizer’s vaccine is already authorized for ages 16 and up, when will teens in this age bracket be able to receive it?

Keep in mind: Young adults and kids aren’t typically at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Because of this, even teens who are old enough to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will likely be in the final group to receive it.

There are a few exceptions: Individuals ages 16 and up with high-risk health conditions may have the opportunity to get the vaccine sooner, as well as individuals age 16 and up who are essential workers.

If your child is a Connecticut Children’s patient who’s age 16 or older and has a high-risk health condition, we will notify you when a vaccine becomes available for them.

What about ages 0 to 15? When can we expect a COVID-19 vaccine for infants, kids and younger teens?

With any luck, a full pediatric vaccine will be available by late 2021.

Why isn’t a COVID-19 vaccine available to kids at the same time as adults?

Children’s immune systems are very different from adults’, and their immune responses can be different at different ages, from infancy through the teenage years. So the research that’s been done on the COVID-19 vaccine for ages 16 and up needs to be repeated in children of younger ages.

Both Pfizer and Moderna recently began new vaccine trials including children as young as age 12. If they’re successful, the data will need to go through FDA review, followed by the time it takes for production and distribution. This process can take awhile, especially for very young ages, which are usually tested last.

How do Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines work?

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are made using the same technology: They inject a genetic molecule called mRNA, which causes a person’s cells to create a viral protein (called a “spike”) that triggers the desired immune response. There is no live virus involved – the mRNA molecule is simply a messenger that tells the body how to create an immune response. Then it’s quickly broken down by the body and disappears.

This is a new technology for vaccines. Because of the mRNA component, which breaks down very easily, the vaccine must be kept cold. The Pfizer vaccine is stored in a freezer at “ultra cold” temperatures, minus-80 degrees Celsius (minus-112 degrees Fahrenheit). The Moderna vaccine can be stored in a regular refrigerator.


When your child needs care ASAP, we’re here to help

Connecticut Children’s Urgent Care in Farmington is open nights and weekends.

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How many doses does the COVID-19 vaccine take to be effective?

The authorized vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna require two shots: an initial dose followed three or four weeks later by a booster shot. While you do gain some immunity from COVID-19 with the first dose, it’s really important – for your own sake, and your community’s sake – to get both doses.

A few weeks after the second dose, you are protected from older variants of COVID-19 at a success rate of about 95% or 94% (Pfizer or Moderna, respectively). It’s worth noting that no vaccine is 100% effective – this is among the very best efficacy seen with vaccines. See below for how the vaccines may work against newer strains, such as the U.K. variant and the South Africa variant.

> Related: Ask a Pediatrician: How Can I Tell if My Child Has the Flu or COVID-19?

Are Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines safe? Should my family get the vaccine, once it’s available to us?

Health officials closely reviewed all safety data from Pfizer and Moderna’s clinical trials and concluded that the vaccines have not led to serious health problems. For example, in Pfizer’s recipients, less than 1 percent had severe allergic reactions.

As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we may learn about very rare or long-term side effects. The CDC has established an independent group of experts to review all the new safety data as it comes in, and provide regular safety updates and advice.

When I made the decision for myself about whether or not to get the vaccine, I weighed the risk of COVID-19 – which we know has caused very serious illness and death for a lot of people – against the risk of the vaccine – which seems to be very effective and safe based on all the data so far.

I was excited, and grateful, to choose the vaccine.

Are there any side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Some people have mild to moderate side effects after the second dose, like soreness in their arm, chills, low grade fever, fatigue or headache in the next 24 hours. These side effects are a normal part of the body’s immune system response, and commonly occur with many vaccines like the regular flu shot.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine wear off every year, like the flu shot?

Great question. This information is not yet available — so stay tuned.

Once you get the COVID-19 vaccine, can you still spread COVID-19 to others?

Another great question. Scientists don’t know yet, but as more people receive the vaccine and their safety data is reported, we’re getting closer to an answer.

In the meantime, it’s important that we all continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, frequent handwashing, and self-quarantining if we might be sick or exposed to illness.

I heard that several new strains of COVID-19 have been confirmed around the world, including in the U.S. Will the current COVID-19 vaccine still be effective?

All coronaviruses, including COVID-19, will tend to mutate and evolve over time. This just means that the genetic blueprint, or genome, of the virus is changing. You can learn more about the new COVID-19 strains here.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have said that their current COVID-19 vaccine will work against the U.K. strain.

Some data suggests that the current vaccines may be less effective against other new strains, such as the South Africa variant. But they’ll still offer some protection, and Pfizer and Moderna are working to improve the vaccine’s efficacy against this variant even as they manufacture new doses

Has Connecticut Children’s begun vaccinating its healthcare heroes?

Yes! I was proud to be among the first to receive my COVID-19 vaccine. We have worked around the clock to vaccinate our healthcare workers. We know how important the vaccine is to ending this pandemic – and we’re proud to do our part.

How should my family prepare for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Keep wearing masks, social distancing, practicing great hand hygiene, and self-quarantining at home if anyone in your family might be sick. These efforts can save lives in the months ahead, while we wait for the vaccine to be distributed to everyone in the community. There is light at the end of the tunnel – but we need to get everyone through the tunnel safely.

Stay tuned for news about the ongoing vaccine trials for kids of different ages. Connecticut Children’s will be working closely with national and international health leaders, and we’ll keep you informed every step of the way.

If you have questions about coronavirus and your child, call Connecticut Children’s 24-Hour Pediatric COVID-19 Hotline at 833.226.2362.

And don’t delay your child’s care! Connecticut Children’s offers Video Visits in more than 30 specialties, and works around the clock to keep your child safe and sound at every in-person appointment, including at convenient locations near you.

> Related: What Should I Do When My Child Has a Common Cold During COVID-19?

As a reminder: At this time, Connecticut Children’s is not offering COVID-19 vaccines to our patients.

If your child is a current patient of Connecticut Children’s, is age 16 or older, and has an underlying medical condition that makes them eligible for Phase 1b, they’ll be eligible soon. We’ll reach out to you as soon as the state makes their vaccine doses available.

Keep in mind, teens age 16 and up who are not high-risk or an essential frontline worker probably won’t be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine until at least springtime, and later for younger kids. We’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Learn how we’re keeping kids safe during COVID-19.

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