COVID Boosters and Kids: What to Know

Kid Booster Shot

January 07, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Mariawy Riollano Cruz, M.D.
The FDA and CDC just announced that Pfizer COVID-19 boosters are now authorized for children ages 12 to 15 years old, and children ages five to 11 who are moderately or severely immunocompromised can receive an additional primary dose of the Pfizer vaccine 28 days after their second shot. 

“The wave of the Omicron variant has put all of us on high alert - case numbers are at an all time high, and we’re seeing more hospitalizations for our younger populations than previously seen,” shares Mariawy Riollano-Cruz, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. “The high transmissibility of the variant makes it even more crucial for all of us to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Should I get my child boosted? 

Yes, protection provided by the vaccine wanes over time and a booster dose reinvigorates your child’s body’s immune response. 

Although pediatric hospitalizations remain low within our network, they have increased about 300% compared to previous surges, with 21 pediatric COVID patients currently hospitalized at our Hackensack Meridian Health facilities (as of January 4, 2022). 

“Most of our young patients are not fully vaccinated, and we’re seeing about 10 to 15% of children infected developing lasting COVID symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, exhaustion and trouble concentrating, long after infection. Moreover, in about a month we are expecting a spike in multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC) cases as well.” adds Dr. Riollano-Cruz. “Vaccination and boosters continue to be a critical tool to prevent infection.”

When should my child get a booster shot?

It is recommended that children receive a booster shot at least five months after your child has completed the primary series - two doses - of the Pfizer vaccine. 

Vaccine Timeline For Kids infographic

Is the booster shot for kids safe? 

Yes, according to data, the booster shot has been tested and is safe for children. 

The FDA reviewed safety data from a study of more than 6,300 children aged 12 to 15 who received a booster dose in Israel, finding no new safety concerns for a booster in this population. No new cases of myocarditis or pericarditis were reported.

According to the FDA, no new safety concerns arose among the more than 4.1 million individuals aged 16 and older who received the booster in Israel. Serious side effects such as myocarditis and pericarditis from the booster are reportedly rare. Common side effects can include: 

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Redness and/or swelling at the injection site
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm that received the injection

Does the COVID-19 booster alter genetics?

No, the COVID-19 booster does not alter your genetics. 

mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid and can generally be described as instructions for your body on how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup, or DNA. 

The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine or booster never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA send a message to our body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to the disease. 

Does the COVID-19 booster shot cause heart issues in children?

No new cases of myocarditis or pericarditis were reported in the data from Israel. 

Myocarditis occurs more frequently among those who have the COVID-19 virus, than those who got vaccinated. Learn more about myocarditis and the vaccine here.

How does a third dose differ from a booster shot? 

Those who have weakened immune systems may not have had as strong of a response to the first two doses. A third dose is administered as part of the primary series to help boost immunity. 

In those who have a normal immune system, a booster dose is given months after the initial series in order to increase immunity against the virus, as levels of antibodies decline over time.

Key Takeaways:

  • COVID booster shots are now authorized for children beginning at age 12. 
  • For the Pfizer vaccine, the recommended time interval between the primary series and the booster shot has been shortened. A booster shot is recommended at least five months after the completion of the primary series. For adults who received the Moderna vaccine the recommendation is still at least six months, and two months for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 
  • Immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11 should receive a third dose of the vaccine in their primary series of shots, 28 days after the second shot. 
  • The COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are safe and effective against preventing severe infection and death from COVID-19.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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