Questions and Answers about Kids and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Updated Jan. 7, 2022

Here are answers to common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Additional information can be found at NortonChildrens.com/COVID-19 and in these recent Get Healthy Families news articles.

Vaccine update information is subject to change. Please refer to this page regularly.

Is the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine available for children ages 5 to 11?

Yes, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children ages 5 to 11. The vaccine for this age group has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Where can my child get the vaccine?

The vaccine is available at Norton Children’s pediatrician and family medicine offices (for established patients) as well as available to anyone at eight Prompt Care at Walgreens sites in Louisville and at our St. Matthews and West Broadway vaccine clinic locations. Appointments can be scheduled at NortonChildrens.com/COVID-19. Parents also may call their child’s provider’s office to make an appointment.

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Who should get the vaccine?

The vaccine is recommended for all children ages 5 and older. Children 5 to 11 receive a smaller dose.

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Who is eligible for a COVID-19 booster?

Children 12 to 17 who already received the two-dose Pfizer primary series should receive a booster dose of Pfizer five months or more after the second dose of the primary series. Norton Healthcare currently offers the Pfizer booster at our St. Matthews and Dixie Highway vaccine clinics, Norton Prompt Care at Walgreens clinics, Norton Community Medical Associates offices and Norton Children’s Medical Group locations.

Individuals who are 18 or older who received the two-dose Moderna primary series should receive a booster dose of Moderna vaccine five months or more after the second dose of the primary series. The Moderna booster is available only at Norton Healthcare Vaccine Clinic – St. Matthews and Norton Healthcare Vaccine Clinic – Dixie.

Individuals who are 18 or older who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should receive an mRNA booster (either Pfizer of Moderna) two or more months after the initial vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations state a preference for the same vaccine for primary and booster doses (except in the case of Johnson & Johnson), although a mix-and-match approach for the booster is acceptable.

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If my child has already had COVID-19, should they still get vaccinated?

In short, YES, based on current data, the vaccines convey more effective immunity than the type your body created while fighting off the disease. Those who were more severely affected by the disease may have developed more antibodies than those who had mild or no symptoms.

study of patients in Kentucky showed that unvaccinated people who already had COVID-19 are more than twice as likely than fully vaccinated people to get COVID-19 again.

The CDC advises that those treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The waiting period for those who received monoclonal antibodies for post-exposure prophylaxis is only 30 days).

Those who are sick with COVID-19 should not get the vaccine until they have recovered and met the criteria for discontinuing isolation. Those with COVID-19 but without symptoms also should wait until after their isolation period to get vaccinated.

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Do we know how long the COVID-19 vaccine provides immunity to children?

We do not yet know how long the vaccine will provide protection. However, we do know that the immune response is strong and very broad.

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If you have a child who is 11 but turning 12 soon, should you wait to get the higher dose?

The smaller dose of the vaccine for ages 5 to 11 has been given to children of different ages and sizes. Waiting until a child turns 12 only prolongs the time they are susceptible to COVID-19 without providing any expected benefit from the larger dose.

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If my child turns 12 after receiving an initial lower dose, will their second dose be the “adult” dose?

Yes. The CDC recommends getting the dose based on the child’s age at the time of vaccination.

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How are children affected by COVID-19?

The number of COVID-19 cases among children in the United States is now higher than it has ever been. Over 325,000 child cases were reported during the week ending Dec. 30 — twice the number reported just two weeks earlier. Nearly 8 million children — approximately 1 in 10 — have tested positive since the start of the pandemic. The remarkable toll of COVID-19 among children in the U.S. includes nearly 30,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths, some of which were due to the multisystem inflammatory disease that can follow recovery from acute COVID-19.

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Have you seen many children with COVID-19 at Norton Children’s?

Yes, we have seen children who have needed to be in our “Just for Kids” Critical Care Center and have been on ventilators. The number of children needing hospitalization has increased during the current wave of infections from the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. There is no question that vaccination can protect children from hospitalization.

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Will the vaccine help as the weather turns colder and people spend more time inside?

Once the vaccine was approved for adults and older children, cases of severe disease became rare among those who had been vaccinated. The vaccine generates strong immune responses in children, and while they still may infected with the current circulating strain, they are unlikely to need hospitalization.

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Why are people who are vaccinated still getting COVID-19?

Some of the “breakthrough” cases are people who don’t have symptoms but test positive. Others have mild upper respiratory tract symptoms and test positive for COVID-19. A vaccine may not prevent you from being infected, but it helps your body fight the infection and prevent severe disease, hospitalization, long-term symptoms and even death.

The omicron variant, which now represents almost all of the circulating virus in the U.S., has mutations that allow it to evade human immune responses. It replicates quickly in the upper respiratory tract and is extremely contagious — almost as contagious as measles, one of the most contagious diseases known to science. Fortunately, though, the omicron variant causes less severe disease, especially in those who have been vaccinated.

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How do I know that my young child is receiving the correct dose, since it is smaller than the dose for ages 12 and older?

Your child should receive a dose from the orange-capped vial, which is the formulation specifically studied and authorized in children ages 5 to 11.

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What are likely side effects?

The vaccine has been shown safe and effective in clinical trials and in the hundreds of millions who have been vaccinated so far. Serious side effects are rare after any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine. It has been determined by the FDA and the CDC that the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is much higher than the risk of side effects from the vaccine. Worldwide, billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given, and there is no sign of any long-term side effects.

Minor side effects in children are similar to what have been seen in the millions of people over age 12 who have received the vaccine: pain at the injection site, low-grade fever, headache, fatigue and nausea.

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Can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine (or other vaccines) at the same time?

Yes. It is recommended that the vaccines be given in different arms or legs.

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How have children ages 12 to 17 done with the vaccine? Have they been receiving the regular adult dose?

Ages 12 to 17 have received the same dose as adults, and serious side effects have been rare. A very small number of older adolescents — mostly males — experienced myocarditis (heart inflammation) after receiving the vaccine, but these issues have been mild, and almost all recover very quickly. There is no evidence of myocarditis in the younger children who have received the vaccine in clinical trials.

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What about children under age 5? Are vaccines likely to be available soon for them?

Clinical trials in this group are ongoing, and we are hopeful of having a vaccine available for these children in the spring or summer of 2022.

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What do I need to bring to my child’s vaccine appointment?

The vaccine is free, but if you have an insurance card, please bring it. In addition, the child should wear a loose-fitting top that allows easy access to the upper arm. No proof of age is required. Plan to stay 15 to 30 minutes after your child receives the vaccine.

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My child is afraid the shot will hurt. What can I do?

Some tips for anyone getting a shot:

Relax your arm during the injection. Afterward, start moving your arm.

Turn your head and look away.

Find a distraction or keep talking.

Drink water ahead of time, and don’t get vaccinated on an empty stomach.

Take deep breaths to relax your body and help clear your mind.

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Will the vaccine prevent COVID-19 and its variants?

While the vaccine is incredibly effective, even against variants like delta and omicron, there likely will be “breakthrough” cases of kids getting COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Even in those cases, most are protected from getting a severe case of COVID-19.

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What should reluctant children or parents do?

That’s a great opportunity to sit down with a pediatrician. Giving everyone a chance to voice their concerns as well as get the information they need can open the dialogue and facilitate a good resolution.

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How can I check that my vaccine appointment has been scheduled and the location?

You can confirm the date, time and location of your appointment by signing in to your child’s free MyNortonChart account. You’ll need proxy access to see your child’s information. If you don’t already have proxy access, sign up here.

If you do not receive a confirmation email or text message, your child’s appointment may not have been scheduled successfully. Please try again, and make sure that you click “Schedule It” at the end of the scheduling process. You also can contact our vaccine scheduling team at (502) 861-4499.

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Should immunocompromised children get the vaccine?

Immunocompromised kids potentially are at risk for getting more severe COVID-19 and long-term complications from the coronavirus itself, and they should be vaccinated. Since they are at risk for not responding well to the vaccine, an extra dose is usually recommended.

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Do we know what the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine might be?

The vaccine has been shown safe and effective in clinical trials and in the hundreds of millions who have been vaccinated so far. Serious side effects that can cause long-term health issues are extremely rare after any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine. What we do know is that COVID-19 kills people. It can damage just about any organ in the body, including the heart, lungs and brain. It can be spread easily from someone with no symptoms or just a mild case to someone who can develop a severe, life-threatening case. The vaccines not only prevent disease in many cases, they also lessen the severity of disease in those who get sick despite being vaccinated.

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Vaccine information was reviewed by Gary S. Marshall, M.D., and Kristina K. Bryant, M.D., both with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine

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