When Can Children Get the COVID-19 Vaccine and Why Should They Get It?

Dr. Paul Offit explains why it’s important for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19.


When can children get the COVID-19 vaccine and why should they get it?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center. One common question parents ask is, when can my children get vaccine? And even more importantly, why should my children get vaccine?

So, if you looked at the virus when it first came into the United States, SARS-CoV-2 virus came into the United States in January of 2020, children I think you could fairly say were infected less frequently, and when they were infected, they were infected less severely. Children probably accounted for about 3% of cases when the virus first came into the country. Now, they account for more than 25%. So, the virus certainly can infect children, even though it does generally infect them less severely.

So for example, if you look at the 5- to 11-year-old child, as of the end of October, there were about 2 million children who had been infected with that virus among the 28 million who in that age group, the 5- to 11-year-old age group; about 8,300 children had been hospitalized, a third of whom went to the intensive care unit; and a third of those who were hospitalized had no previous comorbidities, meaning they were otherwise healthy. So, I think it certainly is of value to vaccinate children over 5 years of age.

We've for many months now, this is January the end of January of 2022, for many months now we've had a vaccine available for the 12- to 15-year-old. Starting at the beginning of November of 2021, we had a vaccine available for 5- to 11-year-old children. Again, this is January 2022, it is expected that in the next few months we may well have a vaccine available for those less than 5 years of age.

So, I think that this is a virus that can cause children to suffer. It can cause them to be hospitalized. If you look at totally at children less than 18 years of age, more than a 1,000 have died. If you look at just children between 5 and 11 years of age, more than a hundred have died. So, like other diseases, like measles or mumps or chickenpox or influenza, this virus can cause children to suffer and be hospitalized and die, and therefore it's worth preventing and worth preventing safely.

And I think we now have much data in children to tell us that these vaccines are safe as millions and millions of children now have been vaccinated.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Feb 18, 2022