What to do now if you want your kids vaccinated ASAP for holiday travel

Oct 29, 2021

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There is big news today from the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA), as it has approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in children ages 5 to 11.

This clears the way for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue the final approval when it meets next week on Nov. 2. With that last sign-off, children in that age bracket can receive COVID-19 vaccines.

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Here’s what you need to know if you’re hoping to get your school-aged children vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible, especially in anticipation of upcoming holiday travel.

What happens next

The CDC is set to meet on Nov. 2 and vote on its recommendation related to the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children between the ages of 5 and 11.

If approved — as is expected — CDC director Rochelle Walensky can then endorse that recommendation and vaccines could become available to children as early as the following day.

How to get your child a vaccination appointment

If you want to be first in line to get your children vaccinated (if and when the vaccine becomes available next week as expected), you may want to try and make an appointment now.

Not all providers have opened their calendars at this point — but some have.

While this is a smaller age group getting approved, it is possible that pediatrician appointments during those first few days will be limited.

As an example, in Texas, the Texas Children’s Hospital network is already accepting appointments for children ages 5 to 11 to receive their first dose beginning on Nov. 6, pending official approval and receipt of supplies.

You can also try checking with the same vaccine clinics — including pop-ups, hospitals and retail pharmacies — that have been vaccinating adults.

Timeline for holiday travel

From a travel perspective, every day counts if you’re hoping to have your children fully vaccinated in time for the holidays.

Full vaccination status for children in this age group is likely to be the same as those ages 12 and older.

Pfizer is a two-dose vaccine given at least three weeks apart. Full vaccination is typically considered to be achieved two weeks after the second vaccine has been received.

With that schedule in mind, if a child receives his or her first vaccine on Nov. 3, they could theoretically receive their second on Nov. 24 (the day before Thanksgiving). In this case, they would likely be considered fully vaccinated two weeks later, on Dec. 8.

Every day you wait to start the process pushes full vaccination status back by another day. To be fully vaccinated (under that five-week timeline) by Dec. 23, as an example, a child would need to receive their first dose no later than Nov. 18.

This timeline suggests that children in the 5 to 11 age group will have the ability to be partially vaccinated by Thanksgiving and fully vaccinated by Christmas.

The FDA previously expanded emergency use authorization for the vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15 on May 10, saying “the known and potential benefits of this vaccine in individuals 12 years of age and older outweigh the known and potential risks, supporting the vaccine’s use in this population.”

Since then, the Pfizer vaccine has been widely available in the U.S. for anyone over the age of 12.

Dr. Jenny Yu, senior manager of medical integrity for Healthline Media (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) cautions against families traveling with members who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I would not think one shot would be enough for travel in December as we are still anticipating another uptick in numbers in the winter as globally vaccination rates are low and we still have high infection rates in this country,” Yu told TPG earlier this fall.

For children under 5, Pfizer has said it expects to issue clinical trial results for children in the 6 months to 2 years age group and the 2 to 5 years age group “as soon as later this year,” meaning the vaccine could be authorized for use for every age group by early 2022.

Related: US will allow vaccinated British, EU travelers from November

Bottom line

This is an exciting moment for families who have been counting down to the day their 5- to 11-year-olds will be fully vaccinated.

While full approval is not yet available, if you want to have your child at the front of the line for an appointment, it’s time to start checking in with the providers in your area to find out how they’ll be handling vaccine appointments. In some cases, the appointments may already be available for scheduling.

Additional reporting by Summer Hull

Featured photo of a boy in Ecuador receiving the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Sept. 13 by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images.

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