On November 2, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a formal recommendation that children as young as 5 years old be eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, which can begin as soon as this week. This is the final step in the process, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the prevention of the virus for children on October 29, 2021. 

This week, the federal government began distributing pediatric vaccinations with plans to scale up to serve the 28 million eligible children in the U.S. by November 8, 2021. The vaccine dosages will be administered as follows: 

  • Adolescents ages 12 years and older will receive the same dosage of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as adults.
  • Children ages 5 through 11 years will receive one-third of the adult dosage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, using smaller needles designated for children. 
  • Children will need a second dose of the vaccine three weeks after their first vaccine. 

When the COVID-19 vaccine received full FDA approval for middle and high school grades on October 4, 2021, Gov. Newsom announced that the state plans to add the vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend school in person. The timing of this requirement depends on federal action but is estimated to be in effect for students in grades 7 through 12 on July 1, 2022. As of August 12, 2021, the state requires all school staff to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week.

Last night, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup met to review the federal findings on the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old and unanimously concluded the safety of the vaccine.