COVID Boosters for Kids Age 5-11 Now Officially Approved

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A medical assistant administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Remy, 6, while his mother holds his hand at the United in Health vaccine site in San Francisco's Mission District on Nov. 9, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Updated 5:15 p.m. Monday, May 23.

COVID vaccine boosters for kids age 5-11 are now rolling out across the Bay Area.

How we got here: On Tuesday, the FDA formally approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster for children age 5-11. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met to review boosters for this age group, and later that same day, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky officially signed off, making these boosters available for rollout nationwide.

Which kids age 5-11 can get a COVID booster shot?

Children age 5-11 are now eligible for a Pfizer booster shot as long as they'd had their first two vaccine shots at least 5 months ago.

This means that to be eligible for a booster, a kid in this age group would have had their second shot by mid-December 2021. COVID vaccines were only made available to this age group on Nov. 2, 2021.

So far, Pfizer's COVID vaccine is the only one that's been approved for use as a two-shot original vaccine series in children age 5-11. Since Pfizer also is the vaccine that's in the approvals process for use as a booster for this age group, there's no question of whether to "mix and match" vaccines for a child's first vaccine series and for their booster (a question adults currently face when choosing their COVID booster).

Why should kids age 5-11 get a COVID booster?

People 18 years old and younger currently account for 18.8% of COVID cases in California.

"While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer-term effects, even following initially mild disease," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf in the FDA's announcement authorizing these boosters on Tuesday.

Califf added that the FDA's authorization of boosters for this age group was "to provide continued protection against COVID-19," and that "vaccination continues to be the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 and its severe consequences."

Only 35% of children age 5-11 in California have been fully vaccinated. Within this age group, the lowest vaccination rates are among Black and Latino children.

Low vaccination rates among California's children have been of concern to doctors for months, with experts pointing to misinformation about COVID vaccines as one reason for low vaccine numbers. The state says that from April 18-April 24, 2022, unvaccinated people were 4.8 times more likely to get COVID than people who had received a vaccine booster shot.

Where can I find a Pfizer booster for kids age 5-11?

The first appointments for boosters for this age group will almost certainly become available at Bay Area pharmacies. This is because pharmacies take their guidance from the federal level.

Other vaccination sites in the Bay Area, like county-run locations, may have to wait a little longer, for the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to approve these boosters for kids age 5 to 11. Once this group of scientists approves the FDA and CDC's decision, these boosters will be able to roll out far more widely across California (and Nevada, Oregon and Washington).

Remember that a certain location may only be offering a certain type of booster, whether that's Moderna, Pfizer or J&J. Make sure that the location you're walking into or where you're making an appointment offers the Pfizer booster if you're looking for a booster for a child age 5-11.

1. Find a Pfizer booster shot through a local pharmacy.

Several pharmacy chains are offering online appointments for the coronavirus vaccine booster, and some also offer walk-in boosters with no appointment:

2. Find a Pfizer booster shot through My Turn.

My Turn is the state's tool that allows Californians to schedule vaccination appointments, as supplies allow. You can also try to find a walk-in appointment through My Turn.

The California Department of Public Health said Monday that My Turn would start offering booster appointments to kids age 5 to 11 "this week," because of the need for full testing of their "complex statewide scheduling system." In the interim, CDPH suggests families "contact clinics directly about walk in appointments."

When appointments do become available, you can visit the My Turn page and select "Make an Appointment." My Turn will ask you for your information, and then for the ZIP code or location you'd like to use to search for vaccine appointments. You can give your home location, or you can input other locations to see which sites are available farther from your home.

If you can't travel to a clinic for your booster shot because of health or transportation issues, you can note this when registering on My Turn, and representatives from the California Department of Public Health will call you to arrange an in-home visit or transportation.

If you don't have an email address or a cellphone number, or you have questions, you can call the California COVID-19 hotline at (833) 422-4255 (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-5 p.m PT) and sign up over the phone. English-speaking and Spanish-speaking operators are available. Callers needing information in other languages will be connected to a translation service that offers assistance in over 250 languages.

Blue-gloved hands administer a vaccine into a shoulder.
Rufus Peoples receives his booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine during an Oakland County Health Department vaccination clinic at the Southfield Pavilion on Aug. 24, 2021, in Southfield, Michigan. (Emily Elconin/Getty Images)

3. Find a Pfizer booster shot through your county.

Visit your county's public health website to learn how your county is vaccinating its residents. Remember that it may take a little while for county-run vaccination sites to start offering Pfizer boosters for this 5-11 age group.

Find your Bay Area county in our list.

4. Find a Pfizer booster shot through your health care provider.

If you have health insurance, check with your provider to see whether they can offer a child age 5-11 their booster shot. If you don't have health insurance but get medical care through a city- or county-run provider, you can check with that location. Remember that it may take a little while for providers to start offering Pfizer boosters for this 5-11 age group.

Read more about how to find a booster shot for a child age 5-11.

Which children and adults were already eligible for a booster?

Children under the age of 5 are still not eligible for their first series of the COVID vaccine.

Children and young adults age 12-17 have been eligible for a Pfizer booster shot since January 2022, and now kids age 5-11 have joined that group. The CDC recommends a first COVID booster shot for everyone age 12 and older.

A second booster shot is currently recommended for:

  • Adults age 50 years and older.
  • People age 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
  • People who got two doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Find a booster shot near you.

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A version of this story originally published on May 17, 2022.

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