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You can now get the COVID-19 vaccine for kids in Philly. Here’s where, and other things to know.

Which vaccines have been authorized for kids? Who is eligible? When can you get one? And more of your questions answered.

What you need to know about kids 5-11 and the COVID-19 vaccine.
What you need to know about kids 5-11 and the COVID-19 vaccine.Read moreCynthia Greer (Custom credit)

Children aged 5 to 11 are now able to get vaccinated against COVID-19, following emergency authorization from the FDA and an endorsement late Tuesday from CDC director Rochelle Walensky. Clinics and pediatricians’ offices are starting to administer the shots as of Wednesday to U.S. youngsters in this age group, who number 28 million.

Here’s what we know so far:

Do you have a question about the COVID-19 vaccine and kids? Email us.

Which vaccines have been authorized for kids?

At this point, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for childrenaged 5 to 11. Studies are ongoing for other vaccines in children and adolescents.

Where can I get my child vaccinated?

Because children 5-11 are receiving smaller doses given via smaller needles, not all facilities that have been vaccinating adults and older kids have received supplies they need for this new group. So it’s wise to call your pediatrician, community health clinics and pharmacies to find out when they can get you in -- and expect it to get easier. “For the first few days it may be difficult to find pediatric vaccine,” acting Philadelphia Health Department director Cheryl Bettigole said the day after the CDC gave final approval for the kid-sized program. “We are all going to need a little patience.” The CDC’s Vaccine Finder site is one option to try, so are the websites of major pharmacy chains such as Rite Aid and CVS.

Who OK’d the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine?

An FDA advisory panel met Oct. 26 to review data on how well the vaccine worked in a study of children aged 5 to 11. The panel decided the vaccine’s benefits outweighed any potential risks — including a heart-related side effect that’s been very rare in teens, and that is actually more of a danger in people who actually contract COVID-19. On Oct. 29, the panel granted emergency use authorization of the vaccines in that age group.

A CDC advisory committee followed on Tuesday with recommendation that those children be vaccinated, and Walensky added her endorsement that evening.

Why should kids get the vaccine?

The vaccines remain highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death. While it is true that most children with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, several hundred have died from the disease in the United States, and thousands have been hospitalized.

» READ MORE: The case for vaccinating teenagers against COVID-19, explained

What’s more, children who get vaccinated should be far less likely to transmit the virus to older people, who are at greater risk of severe consequences.

The virus is “not going away. We have to find a way to live with it and I think the vaccines give us a way to do that,” FDA adviser Jeannette Lee of the University of Arkansas said in October, the Associated Press reported.

Can my child get a flu shot at the same time?

Just as it is for adults, it’s fine for children to get a flu shot at the same time as they get a COVID-19 vaccine. Due to lockdowns, flu season was very mild in 2020, but experts expect there to be a lot more flu this season, so everyone who can should get that shot too.

» READ MORE: Where to get a flu shot in the Philadelphia region

Are the shots the same ones adults get?

The shots will be administered to children with smaller needles, and in smaller doses.

As with teens and adults, children would get two doses spaced three weeks apart, but each dose would be one-third the size — 10 micrograms in each dose, instead of the two 30-microgram doses given to adults.

That’s because the smaller doses were used in the studies on children, primarily due to their smaller body size, and in the interest of reducing the already-slight risk of any side effects.

Which kids are eligible?

For now, the vaccine is authorized only for children age 5 and older. Analysis of the vaccine in younger children remains underway.

» READ MORE: These kids signed up to test a COVID-19 vaccine

What are the side effects in kids?

Children 5-11 experienced similar or fewer side effects compared with teens, according to Pfizer data. These include short-lasting sore arms, fever or achiness.

The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second dose, mostly in young men. (It’s important to note, however, that a COVID-19 infection also can produce such inflammation and it’s usually more serious.)

» READ MORE: An illustrated guide to how the COVID-19 vaccines work

The Pfizer study tracked 2,268 children aged 5-11 who got two shots three weeks apart of either a placebo or a vaccine dose one-third the amount given to teens and adults.

There were 16 COVID-19 cases in youngsters given the placebo, and three in vaccinated children. None of the kids had severe illness, but those who were vaccinated had much milder symptoms than their unvaccinated counterparts.

Will kids need to be vaccinated to go to school?

It’s unlikely. Few school districts have implemented COVID-19 vaccine requirements for children aged 12 to 15, for whom the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized in May.

» READ MORE: Our best pandemic tips: Read our most useful stories about COVID-19