How Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect My Child’s Regular Shot Schedule?

little girl getting a covid vaccine

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Key Takeaways

  • CDC guidelines indicate it's safe for kids to get the COVID shot along with their routine childhood vaccinations.
  • Parents who hesitate to give several shots at once still have options, like staggering vaccines or scheduling routine childhood vaccinations between COVID shots.
  • The pandemic has caused an overall decline in vaccinations among all kids from birth to age 18.

The FDA has approved the emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in kids ages 5 to 15. Dr. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says children ages 6 months to 5 years old may be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the spring of 2022.

That means most kids in the U.S. are or soon will be eligible to receive the COVID vaccine. As a parent, you may be wondering how this new shot will fit into your child’s routine vaccination schedule. 

From birth until the age of 18, the majority of kids in the U.S. follow a standard vaccination schedule that protects against a host of potentially deadly diseases like polio, meningitis, and measles.

Adding another vaccine to the mix is a relatively simple thing, but there’s a separate issue to consider: the pandemic has brought about a sharp decline in rates of all childhood vaccines among kids under 18.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from May 2019 to May 2020, there was a 20% decrease in the number of vaccinations given to kids (outside of the flu shot) as social distancing measures kept many families out of the doctor's office for routine medical care. 

Families Urged to Catch Up on Childhood Vaccines As Soon as Feasible

As the COVID vaccine becomes more of a reality every day, pediatricians are urging parents to make those well-check appointments and get their kids back on track with other vaccinations

Initially, the CDC recommendation stated that no other vaccines should take place within two weeks of receiving the COVID shot, which would make prioritizing childhood vaccines a good idea ahead of the rollout of the COVID vaccine. But that guidance has been changed, with the CDC now saying it's safe for kids to get a COVID shot alongside any other vaccines they happen to be due for, including the influenza vaccine.

Rick Martinello, MD, the medical director of infection prevention at Yale New Haven Health, says the original guidance was in place more to avoid confusion about which vaccine may have caused side effects, rather than a safety hazard.

“This has been recommended simply to ensure that any side effects from vaccination did not overlap and cause confusion. There is a firm recommendation to space out live virus vaccines (like FluMist) by a minimum of 4 weeks, but none of the COVID vaccines used in the US are live virus vaccines,” says Martinello.

But what should you do if you’re still feeling hesitant to schedule your child’s COVID vaccines? Below, we’ve addressed some of the more common questions parents have about adding the COVID vaccine to their child’s immunization schedule. 

Should the COVID Vaccine Take Priority Over Regular Vaccinations?

Jaydeep Tripathy, MD, a board-certified primary care physician with Doctor Spring, says, “In my opinion, yes, the COVID vaccine should be prioritized once available.” Martinello agrees, citing still-high levels of COVID in many communities, and increasing numbers of younger children becoming ill with the virus. 

Jaydeep Tripathy, MD

In my opinion, yes, the COVID vaccine should be prioritized once available.

— Jaydeep Tripathy, MD

But both experts stress that other vaccines are still critically important. “However, that doesn’t mean that parents should forget about the other scheduled vaccinations,” Tripathy asserts. 

How Should the COVID Vaccine Be Spaced If Parents Don’t Want to Combine It With Other Childhood Vaccinations?

It’s possible to get your child back up to date and protected from both COVID and the other diseases covered by routine childhood vaccinations, even if you don’t feel comfortable combining these vaccines. 

Tripathy suggests the following strategy that allows you to effectively stagger the vaccines: “Since there’s about a one-month window between doses of the COVID vaccine, parents can schedule their child’s well visit with vaccines on the 14th day after the child has received the first dose of the COVID shot, and therefore will still have seven to 14 days (depending on the vaccine’s manufacturer; Pfizer shots are given 21 days apart, while Moderna shots are given 28 days apart) before the second dose,” he says.

That’s a great strategy if your child’s well visit happens to be coming up right as you’re attempting to schedule a COVID shot for them. “Otherwise, parents can just schedule the other vaccinations their child is due for two weeks after getting both COVID shots,” Tripathy suggests. 

Will the COVID Vaccine Become Part of the Routine Childhood Vaccination Schedule? 

Perhaps the most enduring question out there right now is whether we’ll all have to roll up our sleeves again this time next year, and that includes our kids. Will the COVID vaccine become a yearly thing, just like the flu shot has? “I suspect it will,” says Martinello, “but we’ll need to wait and see how long immunity persists from our first vaccinations.” 

Rick Martinello, MD

The vaccination schedule is important because it guides physicians and families to get specific vaccines before a child is at the greatest risk for the preventable diseases the vaccines protect against and at the earliest time when the child will be able to develop a lasting, effective immune response to that vaccination.

— Rick Martinello, MD

Just like anything related to this novel virus, it’ll be a wait-and-see approach for scientists to determine next steps for the COVID vaccines. But chances are, you’ll have to fit one into your child’s vaccination schedule each year, just like you do with the flu shot. 

Luckily, with these vaccines now widely available at chain drug stores across the country, getting a yearly COVID shot for your family may not even require a separate trip to the doctor’s office.

Why Is the Timing of Vaccinations So Important?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s okay to put off routine childhood vaccinations because you don’t want your kids to have to deal with so many shots. There’s a reason shots are spaced the way they are, and it’s crucial to keep your kids on schedule as much as possible.

Of course, all families suffered a disruption in their regular routines because of the pandemic, but now’s the best time to start getting caught up again, and that includes scheduling those yearly well visits for your kids. 

“The vaccination schedule is important because it guides physicians and families to get specific vaccines before a child is at the greatest risk for the preventable diseases the vaccines protect against and at the earliest time when the child will be able to develop a lasting, effective immune response to that vaccination,” Martinello says. 

How Important Is It for College Kids to Get COVID Vaccines? 

College-aged kids likely desire a return to normalcy quicker than just about any demographic out there. But kids who remain unvaccinated on college campuses are highly vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Incoming college students should understand that face-to-face classes carry risks for infection since they’ll gather in a small, enclosed room. When it comes to lodging, living with people outside of your household can carry risks for transmission. And finally, college kids are typically more social, so vaccination can really help campus life be more normal again,” says Tripathy.

What This Means for You

If your child hasn't received the COVID shot yet, or isn't old enough, now is the perfect time to get caught up on any routine vaccinations that may have been missed due to the pandemic's social distancing and stay-at-home measures. That way, they're up to date when it comes time for them to get the COVID vaccine.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children 5 through 11 years of age.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine schedule.

  3. Bramer CA, Kimmins LM, Swanson R, et al. Decline in child vaccination coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic — Michigan Care Improvement Registry, May 2016–May 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69:630–631. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6920e1