Health Advice



Q&A: A parents' guide to COVID booster shots for kids 5-11

John Woolfolk, The Mercury News on

Published in Health & Fitness

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- With COVID-19 cases rising again in the Bay Area, parents have a new consideration for protecting their children this week: The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization Tuesday for kids ages 5-11 to get a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

So should they? Tuesday’s announcement didn’t include much guidance for parents, who may have a mountain of questions about what to do next. Here’s a few questions and answers about the latest on boosters and vaccines for kids:

Q Are the boosters available for kids now?

A The FDA’s authorization allows medical staff to give kids their third shots. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can get one today. County health departments, health care providers, including Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, and major pharmacies such as CVS say they are awaiting further guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose vaccine experts are scheduled to meet Thursday.

Q When will kids be able to get boosted?

A The FDA says boosters should be given “at least five months after completion of a primary series” with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which was initially authorized for kids 5-11 in October. So far only 29% of kids that age are fully vaccinated.


Q Are kids this age really at risk from the virus?

A COVID-19 has consistently been deadlier to older people, but children ages 5-11 have died from the disease — a total of 364, according to the CDC. How does that compare to other diseases? During the worst recent influenza season in 2009-2010, 358 pediatric flu-related deaths were reported to the CDC. There were 199 flu-related child deaths reported in 2019-2020, but statistical modeling suggests there may have been up to 434.

Q Why are they authorizing boosters for kids 5-11 now?

A Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said that “emerging data suggest that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 wanes after the second dose of the vaccine in all authorized populations.” He added that the agency has determined “the known and potential benefits” of a booster shot outweigh “its known and potential risks.”


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