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

A Dr. Paul A. Offit, an attending physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said Tuesday that antibodies always wane after vaccination or infection, but that the body still maintains the ability to fight off severe illness.

“With that third dose, you’re buying better protection against mild illness for the next 3 to 6 months,” Offit said.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at UC-San Francisco, said antibodies are expected to increase after a booster dose but that does not necessarily translate to clinical benefit, and the Pfizer trial didn’t evaluate whether the booster shot prevented symptomatic COVID or severe disease.

Q Should we delay a kid booster until the holiday season when we’ll want it the most?

A Offit said you could argue that it would make more sense to wait since the bulk of the protection against infection will be gone by then.

Q OK, but is there any harm in getting the booster?

A Offit said the rare heart inflammation side effect seen mostly in teen boys and young men after getting the shots hasn’t shown up as a safety concern in the younger kids receiving the lower-dose vaccine. “Will it be seen after third dose? Possibly. Time will tell.”


Gandhi said given that young males are more at risk of the heart inflammation side effect, “the risk versus benefits of giving a third shot to 5-11-year-olds is not clear from the data presented today.”

Q I heard most kids already have been infected, so do they need a booster?

A Some experts say probably not. A recent CDC study indicated three out of four U.S. kids have been infected with the virus. Gandhi argued a child who recovered from recent infection and had a single vaccine dose would have what is known as “hybrid immunity,” which she said is “likely the most effective strategy to gain long-term protection.”


(Data Reporter Harriet Rowan contributed.)

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