COVID-19 Vaccine Shot for Kids Ages 5 to 11: Why is the Needle Shorter, Dosage less? An Expert Gives us Answers
As parents start to vaccinate their elementary school-age children or consider the decision to vaccinate their 5 to 11-year-old child, we chatted with an expert on a few COVID-19 vaccine questions that are being asked now that the shot for this age is approved.
Dr. Lahita ’Dr. Bob’ is Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health in Paterson, NJ. Dr. Bob is an expert on Covid and vaccines and is consulted constantly by media across the globe.
Why is the needle shorter than the regular needle for the adult COVID-19 vaccine?
Kids don’t have as much muscle bulk as adults do. Little people, little needles!
The dosage for this vaccine is not the exact dosage? What is the dosage, and why?
It’s ten micrograms, which is 1/3 of the 30 microgram dose given to adults. For kids ages 5-11, the dose is smaller because this age group has a very likely chance to raise a strong immune response on less antigen. Kids are smaller and their immune systems are super active! The antibody response and the cellular responses are going to be very robust in most kids.
Should a child who will be turning 12 soon- wait for the adult dosage or receive the 5 to 11 COVID-19 dosage?
They can do either option. The smaller needle is a lot more comfortable, so I would recommend going ahead and getting it now rather than waiting until they turn 12.
How does the vaccine work on the immune system?
These vaccines for kids work the same as they do for adults. In the most basic terms: When they get the shot, it will make the cells look like they were infected with Covid – the immune system thinks you have gotten an infection, but in reality, you haven’t.
In the mRNA (two shots) vaccines, here is how it works: The messenger RNA is a part of the virus – a dead particle. This particle is isolated from the virus, placed into a package like an M&M, injected into you through your vaccine dose, and then your cells gulp it up. The center of the M&M, aka the chocolate, is the RNA which is processed, and then made into proteins, which attach to the top of the cell. These are the same proteins the body sees when it’s infected with the Covid-19 virus itself, so it creates antibodies for the virus.
Parents don’t need to worry about the side effects because this is totally expected and normal – there may be tiredness, soreness of the arm, fever, etc.
In the CDC panel on Tuesday, some (on the panel) mentioned concerns about children who are considered obese that the dosage perhaps still needs testing. Is this correct? Should parents be concerned?
This is not a valid concern. This is not a weight-based drug. We are presenting antigen to their systemic circulation, which is very limited. The antigen is disseminated, and it has nothing to do with their weight. It’s about their age – they can be tall 9-year-olds, obese 9-year-olds, it has nothing to do with size. Traditionally, kids are really afraid of injections so when I refer to them as “little kids, little doses” it’s all about their age.
Donna Duarte-Ladd is a California native, long-time Brooklyn resident, and the Executive Director of Content Strategy for New York Family Media. She lives with her family in Brooklyn and Upstate New York, where you can find her on weekends running – literally running – after her two boys.