A young girl with a barrette on one side of her medium-length black hair and a mask sits at an outdoor table, as a woman wearing a black handkerchief headband, glasses and blue surgical gloves puts a colorful Band-Aid on her upper arm.
Six-year-old Calista B. at her second appointment for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, administered by Alexandria Morrison. (Santiago Mejia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

COVID Vaccines For Kids Under 5 Are Here. Here's How to Find One

COVID Vaccines For Kids Under 5 Are Here. Here's How to Find One

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This story was updated 12:40 p.m. on Thursday, June 23

COVID vaccines for kids under 5 are now approved and are rolling out across the Bay Area.

It's the first time this age group has been eligible to get their COVID shot.

How we got here: On June 16, the FDA formally approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines under 5. On June 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously in favor of recommending these vaccines. Hours later, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky officially signed off, making vaccines for kids under 5 available for rollout nationwide starting the week of June 20.

"We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today's decision, they can," Walensky said.

We'll keep updating this guide as we find out more information about getting a COVID vaccine for kids under 5 in the Bay Area.

What to know about COVID vaccines for kids under 5

Children under five years old now have two options for getting a COVID vaccine: Pfizer or Moderna. Both vaccines are only available for kids age at least 6 months.

Pfizer's pediatric COVID vaccine is:

  • Available for children aged between 6 months and four years old
  • Given in three separate doses (3 micrograms, i.e. one-tenth of an adult dose)

The first two shots of Pfizer's pediatric vaccines are given three weeks apart, and the third one eight weeks after the second shot.

Moderna's pediatric COVID vaccine is:

  • Available for children aged between 6 months and five years old
  • Given in two separate doses (at 25 micrograms, one-fourth of an adult dose.)

The two shots of Moderna's pediatric vaccine are given four weeks apart.

Which COVID vaccine should a child under 5 get, Pfizer or Moderna? In a call with reporters earlier this week, vaccine experts noted that the two kinds of shots haven’t been tested against each other — so right now, there’s no way to tell parents and caregivers if one is superior or not.

"You can’t compare the vaccines directly," said Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University, a former FDA vaccine chief.

Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccine chief, echoed this. "Whatever vaccine your health care provider, pediatrician has, that’s what I would give my child," Marks said Friday when the FDA approved these vaccines.

Why should kids under 5 get the COVID vaccine?

The FDA's expert advisory panel voted unanimously that the benefits of these COVID vaccines outweigh any risks for children under 5 — that’s roughly 18 million kids across the United States.

Dr. Peter Marks opened the panel's meeting with data showing what he termed a "quite troubling surge" in young children’s hospitalizations during the omicron wave. Marks noted that 442 children under 4 have died during the pandemic, saying that while that number was far lower than deaths among adults, the data shouldn't be dismissed in considering the need for vaccinating the youngest kids.

Low vaccination rates among Californian children age over 5 have been of concern to doctors for months, with experts pointing to misinformation about COVID vaccines as one reason for low vaccine numbers.

Where can I find a COVID vaccine for kids under 5?

Remember that a certain location may only be offering a certain type of vaccine, whether that's Moderna, Pfizer or J&J, or only be providing these pediatric vaccines to certain age bands within the 6 months - 5 years range. Make sure that the location you're walking into or where you're making an appointment offers the pediatric Pfizer or Moderna vaccine  for this age group.

1. Find a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for kids under 5 through a local pharmacy.

Several pharmacy chains are offering online appointments for COVID vaccines, and some also offer walk-in vaccines with no appointment.

The state says that pharmacies aren't authorized to vaccinate children age 2 and under. This means that unless your child is age 3 or older, you won't be able to get their COVID shot at a pharmacy. The state's My Turn site recommends parents and caregiver of kids in this age group "schedule with your child's healthcare provider or local health clinic"  instead of a pharmacy (more on that below.)

The exception to this is CVS's MinuteClinics, which are staffed by providers who can administer a COVID vaccine to kids age 18 months and older.

Find a pharmacy appointment near you:

2. Find a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for kids under 5 through your health care provider or pediatrician.

If you have health insurance, check with your provider or your child's pediatrician to see whether they can offer the COVID vaccine for a kid under 5.

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 COVID vaccines for a children under 5.

3. Find a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for kids under 5 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.

When appointments become available as supply allows, 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 with a child to a clinic for their vaccine 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)

4. Find a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for kids under 5 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 COVID vaccines for kids under 5.

Find your Bay Area county in our list.

This story contains reporting from the Associated Press.

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