COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 authorized: What to expect in the first week

Families, caregivers, teachers, and our entire community have reason to be hopeful following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11.

Starting this week, vaccine will become available for children in this age group through pediatricians’ offices, school clinics, King County vaccination partnership sites, and some retail pharmacies.

Independent panels of vaccine experts found the vaccine to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19 and no serious safety concerns were identified. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for this age group last week.

At this time, King County sites DO NOT yet have appointments available for children 5-11. CDC began shipping pediatric vaccines this week and some providers may not receive shipments until next week.

The Pfizer vaccine for this age group is formulated specifically for children. Children aged 5-11 cannot get the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12+, so as pediatric doses become available, families should make sure to only make appointments for a Pfizer vaccination for the appropriate age.

As appointments become available, we will share updates on

The vaccine keeps children and their families safe

Protecting kids

Vaccinating younger children protects them from getting COVID-19 and reduces their risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications. National data shows that 1/3 of kids hospitalized for COVID-19 have needed intensive care treatment.

Locally, there have been over 25,000 reported COVID-19 cases among youth in King County, 200 hospitalizations, and five deaths since the pandemic began. About 20% of all reported COVID-19 cases in King County were among youth, and youth ages 5-11 currently have the highest rate of COVID-19 among all age groups.

We also see the difference vaccination can make from local public health data. Among youth ages 12 and older, youth who weren’t fully vaccinated were seven times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 19 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to fully vaccinated youth.

“A COVID-19 vaccine for 5-11-year-olds will allow these young people to take advantage of the most important prevention measure – one that older children and adults have already benefitted from,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“We’re still learning about the impact of long COVID on children, and we know children can spread COVID-19 to others, including adults who may be vulnerable to severe outcomes. For these reasons, along with the strong safety record of the vaccine in older children and adults, we look forward to ensuring access to the pediatric vaccine as soon as possible.”

Preventing transmission

As a community, the more people that are vaccinated, the safer we will all be and the less chance that new variants of the virus will emerge. Children can spread COVID to others if they get infected. That’s particularly a worry when they are around higher-risk groups, like grandparents, other family members, or caregivers who may have medical conditions.

We also can’t lose sight of the many real, indirect impacts of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of children, including social and emotional health and educational gaps. Many of these impacts have disproportionately impacted communities of color.

Availability of vaccine for kids

There are approximately 183,000 five- to eleven-year-old children in King County. In the initial weeks, King County may not have enough to meet the expected demand. However, this constraint will be temporary: Public Health expects enough doses in the weeks ahead to ensure access for every child across King County.

“It’s great news that COVID-19 vaccine for kids is starting to arrive in our community. In this initial phase, we’re taking an equitable approach by prioritizing efforts to where impacts from COVID-19 have been greatest,” said Dennis Worsham, Interim Director for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“As more vaccine becomes available, families will have increased access to vaccine at some pediatricians’ offices and clinics, through school vaccination events, pharmacies, and at vaccination sites currently offering vaccine for teens and adults.”

Appointments will be available at:

  • Some doctor’s offices and community clinics.
  • School clinics: Public Health is working with many school districts to set up clinics with vaccine providers. Families should look for messaging from their school or school district in the weeks to come.
  • King County’s vaccine partnership sites throughout the county.
  • Some retail pharmacies.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to visit Vaccine Locator for information on where to access vaccine.

Additional information and resources

In the days ahead, Public Health will provide information about vaccination sites at Getting Vaccinated in King County.

It’s important that parents and caregivers have all the information they need about the vaccine for children. Public Health recently answered vaccine questions from local parents and kids. We hear from our community members that misinformation continues to circulate and encourage families to talk with their pediatrician or healthcare provider as they have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids.

Originally published 11/3/21