645,000 Arizona Children Are Now Eligible for the Pfizer Vaccine. Here’s What Parents Need to Know.

group of kids wearing backpacks and masks

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

By Lorraine Longhi

November 3, 2021

Arizona health care providers could begin rolling out shots as early as Thursday.

Nearly a year after the Pfizer vaccine became the first COVID-19 vaccine to win emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), children ages 5-11 are now eligible for the vaccine.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on approval for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered in smaller doses to children in the new age bracket. The Pfizer vaccine was previously only available to those 12 and older.

That means 645,000 children are now eligible for vaccination, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Tempe mom Heather Minior has a 9-year-old child that she plans to get vaccinated on the heels of the announcement.

RELATED: What Arizona Parents Should Know Ahead of the Pfizer Vaccine Approval for Children Ages 5-11

Minior’s husband is a physician and her oldest child is already vaccinated, but she says her family has continued to mask up to avoid passing the virus onto vulnerable members of their family and community.

“I feel like we’re obligated as a community to protect the people who are more vulnerable,” she said. “We’ve been mandating shots as long as we’ve been alive. We do it more for the community than ourselves.”

As of Wednesday, 21,273 people in Arizona have died as a result of COVID-19, with 59.3% of the state’s population having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Here’s what to know about the new vaccine rollout, including any potential side effects children may experience after getting vaccinated.

Where Can My Child Get Vaccinated?

Arizona has more than 900 providers that are prepared to administer pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations, in addition to retail pharmacies, according to ADHS.

Some healthcare providers could begin offering vaccines as early as Thursday, Nov. 4, according to Maricopa County Public Health.

Parents should be able to access appointments for their child at their local doctor’s office, pediatrician, health clinic, or pharmacy. Providers who have pediatric doses of the vaccine available will reach out to their patients, but a complete list of providers who have vaccines in Maricopa County is available here

CVS will offer the pediatric doses of the vaccine at 15 of its pharmacies throughout Arizona, with appointments tentatively set to begin on Sunday, Nov. 7, while Walgreens will offer appointments beginning Saturday.

The consent of a parent or legal guardian consent is required, and children must be accompanied by an adult.

One pediatrician’s office, Pleasant Pediatrics, has been allowing parents to book appointments for children ages 5-11 ahead of the full authorization from the FDA.

Maricopa County will also begin rolling out vaccination events throughout the county at schools, health clinics, and community health centers to make it easy for families to access the vaccines.

A complete list of event locations can also be found here. The COVID-19 vaccine is free to anyone who is eligible, and residents do not need to pre-register for most vaccination events.

Information about vaccination sites across Arizona can be found with the ADHS Vaccine Finder, which also allows parents to filter for providers who have the pediatric vaccine doses.

Does My Child Need the Vaccine?

In Arizona, 43 children have died of COVID-19, the second-highest number in the country, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nearly 3,000 people younger than 20 have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic, according to ADHS.

Research has also found that people vaccinated against COVID-19 have a lower likelihood of developing long-term symptoms and complications like multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) from the virus.

While rare, the CDC reported earlier this summer that over 4,000 children in the US had contracted MIS-C related to COVID-19. Of those, 36 children died from MIS-C.

In a report released last month, the CDC found that the Pfizer vaccine was highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 among children ages 12-18.

But vaccinating children is also important in stopping the spread of COVID-19 to more vulnerable populations.

As of Wednesday, 59% of the state’s population had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Experts have said that between 60-80% of the population should be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, which protects a population from the spread of COVID-19 once enough of them have gained immunity toward the virus.

What Kind of Side Effects Can My Child Expect?

Over 4.2 million people in Arizona have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Wednesday, with nearly 400,000 of them between the ages of 12-19, according to ADHS.

A report released by the CDC also found that there was no increased risk of death among the 6.4 million Americans who had been vaccinated when compared with the 4.6 million people who haven’t been vaccinated. 

The findings were consistent even when accounting for factors like age, gender, race, and the type of vaccine received.

The vaccine dosage for children is also smaller than the one given to adults.Children between 5 and 11 years old will be given two shots of a smaller, 10-microgram dose of the vaccine.

Side effects of the vaccine can include soreness and swelling at the injection site, and tiredness, headache, chills, fever, or nausea. Side effects are normal and a sign that the body is building protection against COVID-19.

There is a rare chance that the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction, which could include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, increased heartbeat, a rash, or dizziness. Allergic reactions typically occur a few minutes to an hour after receiving the vaccine, and individuals receiving the vaccine are typically asked to stay nearby for monitoring after receiving a dose.

In a blog post last month, ADHS Interim Director Don Herrington pointed out that nearly all Arizona children ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated against diseases like measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, rubella, mumps, and polio.

“Soon, COVID-19 will become the next disease with a safe and highly effective vaccine available to children in this age group,” he wrote.

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