One chart shows how well Pfizer's lower-dose vaccine works to protect kids aged 5-11 from COVID

One chart shows how well Pfizer's lower-dose vaccine works to protect kids aged 5-11 from COVID
A 6 year old child receives Pfizer's low-dose COVID-19 Vaccine in Hartford, Connecticut on November 2, 2021. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images
  • Pfizer's low-dose vaccine for kids 5-11 is now both authorized and recommended for use in the US.
  • Pharmacies and doctor's offices nationwide should start carrying shots for kids in the coming days.

Pfizer's low-dose vaccine for kids is now both authorized and recommended for youngsters aged 5 to 11 years old, allowing the families of roughly 28.7 million children across the US to seek out free COVID-19 shots for them.

Roughly one third of parents and caregivers in this age group say they want to get their kids vaccinated straight away - though it may take some time for the shots to reach them, since this version of the COVID-19 vaccine is being shipped out in special vials, with needles designed for smaller arms.

The decision to allow vaccination in this younger group of school-aged children, reached jointly - and emphatically - by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, came after both federal scientists and independent expert panels reviewed data about the safety and utility of Pfizer's vaccine in the 5-11 age group.

Much of that came from Pfizer's pediatric vaccine trial, which recruited more than 2,200 volunteers ages 6-11 across countries including the US, Poland, and Spain.

This chart, based on data from that trial, shows how well the vaccine worked in that age group. It shows, in blue, the rate of COVID-19 infections among kids who got a Pfizer vaccine during the trial. In red, you see the rate of infection among those who got no shot:


One chart shows how well Pfizer's lower-dose vaccine works to protect kids aged 5-11 from COVID
16 of 750 children injected with placebo (fake) shots got COVID-19 during the trial, while only 3 of the 1,518 who were vaccinated did. Pfizer / CDC

More than 1,500 of the kids in the trial recieved Pfizer's vaccine, while 750 others got fake, placebo jabs, in order to assess how well the vaccine really works at preventing COVID-19 disease.

Afterwards, researchers kept tabs on the kids for more than 100 days (during the height of the Delta wave in the US) to track who got sick, and who didn't.

Only 3 kids who had Pfizer's vaccine developed symptomatic COVID-19 during the trial, while 16 in the placebo group caught the virus. (The difference is more striking when you consider that the trial was a 2:1 randomization, meaning that there were twice the number of vaccinated kids in it as unvaccinated.)

The resulting chart (above) looks quite similar to the ones Pfizer and Moderna drafted after adult trials of their COVID-19 vaccines last year. Vaccine side effects for kids have been generally milder than for adults, with more reports of arm swelling and redness, but less fever and body aches.

Scientists said they are confident the vaccine will help curb the rate of children dying from COVID-19

"I have vaccinated my kids," CDC advisory committee member Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot said on Tuesday, stressing parents nationwide should feel reassured that the committee was full of parents and grandparents who took seriously their responsibility to ensure vaccine safety for other families. "We have seen the devastation of this disease."


COVID-19 has become a leading cause of death in children 5-11 during the pandemic.

At least 1.9 million children have been infected, and 8,300 hospitalized (roughly one-third of them treated in the ICU).

172 children have died of COVID-19.

Complications of the disease in children have included heart issues, and at least 2,316 cases of a rare illness called MIS-C. There have also been cases of long COVID.

Children are just as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as adults, and can transmit the disease to their parents and teachers. While it's true that COVID-19 tends to be milder in kids, it's impossible to know exactly which children will get a mild case, and which ones might suffer with more severe disease.


According to CDC estimates, vaccinating kids in the 5-11 age group could prevent 600,000 COVID-19 cases from November 2021 to March 2022, and prevent hundreds of hospitalizations of kids.

"We do understand that people have legitimate concerns, and they have a lot of questions," Dr. Beth Bell, another committee member said, stressing that the committee's "enthusiasm for this vaccine in this age group," is "based on our expertise."