Pfizer booster shot is now approved for children 5 to 11, here’s what a doctor advises

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Jack Allen, 12, closes his eyes as he gets a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Estefania Cruz in Kaysville on July 6, 2021. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for children ages 5 to 11. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for children ages 5 to 11. That third shot is available for elementary age children five months after their initial two doses. Utah parents are already weighing that decision.

COVID-19 cases are rising again in Utah among adults and children. Many parents will decide to get their kids boosted right away. But, a leading pediatric epidemiologist suggests some parents may want to wait based on their summer plans.

“I’m actually glad for it,” Josh Keddington said about the eligibility for the kids’ booster.

He and his wife, Angela, have eagerly awaited the kids’ booster. We first met them a year ago, as they anticipated COVID-19 vaccination eligibility for their boys, ages 7 and 11. They received their first two COVID-19 vaccination doses last fall, and are ready to be boosted.

“It’s not surprising, and I’m actually glad that they are available, and that it’s something that we can do,” Keddington said.

But, they may wait until later in the summer, to get maximum protection from that booster when the boys head back to school. Dr. Andrew Pavia, director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital said families may want to base that decision on summer plans.

“It’s complicated having to make these individual decisions,” Pavia said during a community COVID-19 update Thursday. “It would be easier to say rush right in, and do it this week. But, I think that’s the reality of the phase that we are going into. You need to think things through in terms of how it affects you, your family, and the people around you.”

If your kids are going to have a low-risk summer, they may want to consider getting that booster before school starts.

“If you’re going to spend your summer outdoors, then you probably want to maximize your protection when it’s time to go back to school, when the risk of getting COVID-19 and missing a lot of school, or bringing it home to your vulnerable family members are highest.”

If that’s the situation for your family, he said, consider getting the booster in the fall. But, if you’re planning a lot of travel, where your family may have a lot of indoor exposures you probably want to get now.

Keddington said his family plans do not involve high risk activities.

“The things that we have planned for the summer are mostly outdoors, and just as a small group,” Keddington said.

So, they may wait until three weeks before school starts.

“When they’re in that spot, I think we want them to have as much of the vaccine in them as they can have,” the father said.

But, less than 30% of that age group nationwide has been vaccinated at all. Dr. Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist, said those who are unvaccinated are still the most vulnerable.

“The most important is to get kids their first two doses,” she said. “But then, I think it is really important for kids to get that booster when they get five months out from their first doses so that we can have them as protected as possible.”

She suggested getting kids boosted now because of the rise in cases. Regardless of the timing, Pavia says parents should get their kids vaccinated and boosted to protect their family and the community.

“It’s really necessary for kids 5 to 11 to complete their immunity, and there’s really not much downside besides talking your child into another shot.”

Parents should talk to their pediatrician about the booster. They can also check with their county health department for availability.

Jed Boal

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