Where to Get Your 5- to 11-Year Old a COVID-19 Vaccine

Little girl getting a COVID vaccine

Narisara Nami / Getty Images


In October 2022, the FDA authorized the updated bivalent boosters from Pfizer and Moderna for everyone ages 5 and older. These boosters provide protection against both the Omicron variant and the original strain of the virus. The Pfizer booster is available for kids ages 5 and up, and the Moderna booster is available for kids ages 6 and up.

In December 2022, the FDA also authorized these boosters for children between 6 months and 4 years old. Which booster they get and when depends on what primary vaccine they received.

Key Takeaways

  • The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for children ages 5 through 11 years and is one-third the dose that adults and children ages 12 and up are given.
  • Access to the vaccine will vary across the country in the short term but experts indicate that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to eventually get one.
  • There are nearly 28 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the United States and initial research indicates that more than one-third of parents plan to vaccinate their children right away.
  • A variety of pop-up vaccine sites, community events, and social media tools are being used to help kids get vaccinated.

Many parents were doing a celebratory dance when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. After all, many parents have waited more than 11 months for this day to arrive!

Naturally, parents across in the U.S. are eager to get kids vaccinated right away, especially with the holidays just around the corner. But that doesn't mean finding a vaccine appointment is easy or without stress.

If long lines, booked vaccination sites, and limited options have you worried about when you can get your child vaccinated, you are not alone. Countless parents across the U.S. are scrambling to find vaccines for their children and are worried that the supply will be limited. And while experts say you can rest assured this experience is temporary, it's still OK to be concerned.

To help put your mind at ease and aid you in finding a vaccine for your little one, we have put together a list of tips from parents and experts on how and where to locate an appointment. From traditional locations to more creative approaches, you will find a plethora of ideas to help you maximize and improve your search.

Plus, we have included a few tips about what to do until you find an appointment. Rest assured that if you want to get your child vaccinated, you will be able to do so!

Problems Finding the Vaccine

With nearly 28 million children in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 11 and about one-third of them expecting to get vaccinated right away, it is not surprising there has been a slight run on the vaccine in these early weeks.

Nearly 1 million kids were vaccinated in the first week alone. Consequently, some hospitals and clinicians are seeing a larger influx of children than originally anticipated.

"We have been operating with the one-third rule," says Kim Giuliano, MD, chair of primary care pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic Children's. "But what I am seeing in terms of conversations with parents and patients is greater than one-third. There is pretty significant interest in the vaccine."

This peak interest in getting kids vaccinated—along with the fact that only 15 million doses were distributed in the first wave—could be part of the reason why there are initial shortages. But, Dr. Giuliano says most experts expect this to be a short-term problem and do not anticipate vaccination shortages like what occurred during the initial wave of vaccinations for adults.

Still, parents are experiencing some challenges in locating vaccines for their kids. For instance, parents in New York City who attended pop-up vaccination sites at their local schools were turned away when they ran out of shots while parents in Boston, like Johannah Haney, had to travel 30 minutes outside of the city to find a vaccine.

"There have been some parents struggling to find vaccines, particularly families who don't have the luxury of being able to drop everything to go whenever an appointment comes up," she says. "In the area of Boston where I live, another elementary school (in addition to the one my child attends) is having a COVID-19 outbreak, and they canceled a planned COVID-19 vaccine clinic that was going to be held in their parking lot because they didn't want kids exposed."

Haney, whose daughter is 10, said she had to book 10 days in advance and more than 30 minutes away from her home to find a vaccine appointment for her daughter. She says she was anxious to get the vaccine not only to protect her daughter and the family but also because there are a significant number of positive COVID-19 cases at her daughter's school right now.

"There is a cluster of positive cases in her school—a more than 10% positivity rate," she says. "My child has tested negative so far, but the sooner she can get a shot and start building immunity the better."

Where to Find the Vaccine

If you are having trouble finding a vaccine in your community, experts recommend being persistent yet patient. The challenges parents in some communities are facing with getting the vaccine are temporary and as the country continues to roll out the vaccine for this age group, finding a vaccine will get easier.

Dane Snyder, MD

There is always a surge in the beginning that wanes over time. Parents of 5- to 11-year-olds have been waiting a long time for this option.

— Dane Snyder, MD

"We won't see the the same supply issues as we did with adult vaccines," says Dane Snyder, MD, section chief of primary care pediatrics for Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Most who want to get the vaccine will be able to get it. There is always a surge in the beginning that wanes over time. Parents of 5- to 11-year-olds have been waiting a long time for this option."

If, like Haney, you want to find a vaccine as soon as possible to ensure your child is protected, there are a number of places to look. Some of them are obvious solutions like contacting your pediatrician, your local pharmacy, and the children's hospital in your area, while others are a little more creative. Here's what you need to know about finding a vaccine for your child.

Contact Your Pediatrician, Pharmacy, or Children's Hospital

Clearly, the first place to check for a vaccine appointment is with your child's primary care provider or your local pharmacy. Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS offer appointments and allow parents to schedule appointments online. Even small, private pharmacies may be offering the vaccine.

"Be flexible about when and where you go," suggests Haney. "I know it's a privilege not everyone has, but if you can take time on a workday or school day to do it during the nine to five hours, we found more appointment times available then."

In addition to pharmacies and pediatricians, there also are 114 children’s hospitals offering vaccinations. Many also are hosting family-friendly vaccination events featuring superheroes, stickers, pets, stuffed animals, and more.

For Amy Gross, mother of a 6- and 9-year-old, finding a vaccine at her local children's hospital in Columbus, Ohio took a few tries. But she kept checking back until she was able to find an appointment.

"My advice that I gave friends was check back regularly and check multiple locations," Gross says. "All local pharmacies, children’s hospitals, and pediatricians are options, so don’t just check one place."

Look to Your School or Community

Another option is to look to your schools or your community to see what is planned, says Dr. Snyder. For instance, in Chicago, the city and Chicago Public Schools planned a Vaccination Awareness Day. In an effort to allow everyone the opportunity to get their children vaccinated, city employees were given paid time off while the city's schools closed so that families could get vaccinated.

Veronica Choate, a mother of a 4-, 5-, and 9-year-old in North Compton, California indicates that she is planning to utilize their school district's vaccination program since vaccines are so hard to find in her area. For her community, which is near the San Francisco area, finding vaccines has been a challenge. In fact, her family is still trying to find booster shots.

"The school district's goal is to vaccinate the older elementary school children first beginning in January and July for the younger ones," she says. "Our school year begins on August 3, 2022, so the goal is to have all kids vaccinated by then."

Parents also may find mobile clinics in their area. According to the White House, there are FEMA-supported mobile clinics, from Asheville, North Carolina to Florence, Oregon that families can utilize. Meanwhile, New York City has more than 1,000 clinics planned at schools, many of which are taking place prior to when the work- and school-day begin.

"Additional vaccine clinics are coming online in some areas where access is a bigger issue," says Haney. "This helps so much, particularly with vaccine equity which I feel isn't being discussed widely enough."

Experts indicate that as more vaccine doses are distributed, events like these will continue to become available in communities across the country. Watch your school and community's social media accounts and online newsletters as well as your local news media to stay up-to-date on community events and pop-up options near you.

Use Online Resources

There also are a number of resources online for vaccine appointments. You can start with your state's health department website, which often allows you to search for vaccines across the state—and some will even provide transportation. Sometimes cities also have vaccine locator options, so check your city's website too.

In Texas, the Department of State and Health Services provides a text option. Parents can text their zip code to GETVAX (438829) for English or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish to not only find a vaccine but also to secure a free ride to a clinic. And in Minnesota, the health department offers an interactive map where parents can find a vaccine.

"Although I cannot speak to local vaccine supply, one good online resource for parents is Vaccines.gov," says Swathi Gowtham, MD, FAAP, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the immunizations representative for the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

To use the site, parents or caregivers simply enter their zip code and click on the Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds to find a listing of all the sites offering vaccines for this age group. This option is much more efficient than going to each pharmacy's website and looking for available time slots.

"I would recommend scheduling an appointment," Dr. Gowtham says. "With walk-ins, you cannot guarantee there will be enough of the vaccine available or that they will have a dose ready [due to the special refrigeration needs of the vaccine]."

Meanwhile, Dr. Snyder suggests that you also confirm the site you are scheduling with does in fact offer the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, especially since this vaccine is one-third the dose of the adult version and is administered with a smaller needle.

Expand Your Search

As you are searching online for a vaccine, Dr. Giuliano recommends expanding your search if you are able to. This is what Haney did in Boston when she could not find a vaccine appointment nearby. This option is especially important for people in both metropolitan areas where demand is higher and in rural areas where the number of vaccine locations is limited.

"It helps to expand the geography you are looking in if you are able and willing to drive a little further," Dr. Giuliano says. "Parents can also add their name to a waiting list. Within our health system anytime that a patient is closed out of vaccine access, they have an opportunity to sign up for the waiting list and will be notified with new appointment slots are opening."

You also can consider getting the vaccine in a neighboring state if you live near a state line. Just be sure to check the state's guidelines before scheduling your appointment. While not all state's require you to be a resident in order to receive a vaccine, there are some that still do.

Swathi Gowtham, MD, FAAP

Although adults, especially the elderly bear the bulk of [the serious infections], pediatric patients can get severe disease.

— Swathi Gowtham, MD, FAAP

The important thing is that you keep trying until you locate a vaccine for your child, says Dr. Gowtham. Kids this age can get very sick from COVID-19, she says.

"In some ways, pediatric COVID-19 has been dismissed," she says. "And although adults, especially the elderly, bear the bulk of [the serious infections], pediatric patients can get severe disease. This is not benign. As many as 600 children have died and there have been many more hospitalizations."

Use Social Media

When it comes to finding a vaccine appointment, social media has become an invaluable tool. From Facebook groups and Instagram posts, there are a lot of people sharing tips on where to find vaccines in their communities.

If you haven't done so already, Haney suggests looking into parenting groups and other community resources. You will find a lot of good tips online from other parents who have had success. There are even good samaritans in some communities who are willing to do the research and legwork for you to help you secure an appointment, she says.

One example is the Vaccine Hunters / Angels Massachusetts group on Facebook that helps people find vaccines in the area. Although it is unclear if they are actively scheduling vaccines for kids like they did for adults, they are posting regular updates about pop-ups and locations where kids can get vaccinated.

"Depending on where you live, there also are some excellent Twitter bots that will search for and post new vaccine appointments in your area," Haney says.

According to Haney, a number of these "vaccine bots" cropped up during the height of the vaccine rollout for adults and some may be used to help parents find vaccine appointments. One example of a Twitter bot is this vaccine bot in Maryland, which helps adults locate vaccine appointments at CVS. Haney suggests searching for Twitter bots in your community under the people tab.

"Some [bots] were run by good samaritans who knew how to write code to crawl the websites where appointments were posted," says Haney. "I used the Twitter bot @vaccinetime when I was looking for my adult vaccine appointment, and later when I was trying to help family members find theirs."

Keep an eye out for these tools to become available as the vaccine rollout for this age group continues. Most likely if a need presents itself, these bots—which were initially coded for adult appointments—may also begin offering information on kids' appointments, too.

Leverage Your Network

When Choate was trying to get her grandmother vaccinated, she reached out to friends who worked in the healthcare field. They gave her tips on where to find a vaccine, when new appointments would be opening up, and when to schedule. She suggests parents do the same thing when looking for vaccines for their kids.

"The first vaccines were very hard to get as adults," she says. "We kept trying to get my grandmother a vaccine, but couldn't find one. Our main concern was to get her taken care of so we would drive to community health centers every afternoon before they closed because a friend told us they often had leftover vaccines at the end and we could get a vaccine that way."

Choate says she eventually secured a vaccine for her grandmother through the help of a friend. As a healthcare worker, her contact was able to help her secure an appointment at a local hospital. But she says parents also can go to clinics and pharmacies at the end of the day to see if they have leftover vaccines from people who did not show up for their appointments as she did with her grandmother.

If you have friends or family members who work in healthcare, ask them for insight and help throughout the process. Often, they can provide tips on when or where to schedule as well as offer other tips for finding a vaccine. Because they work in these settings every day, they see firsthand how the process works.

What If You Can't Find an Appointment?

Naturally, it can be a little distressing if you are diligently looking to schedule an appointment for your child and still are having difficulty finding one, but experts indicate that there should not be a shortage of vaccines. Everyone who wants to get their child vaccinated should be able to do so.

Kim Giuliano, MD

Don't lose hope. There will be more availability in the coming weeks.

— Kim Giuliano, MD

"Don't lose hope," says Dr. Giuliano. "There will be more availability in the coming weeks. Many children's hospitals are working to secure more vaccines and staffing in order to open up more vaccination times. We are excited there is so much interest and we are working to the best of our ability to make vaccinations quickly available for everyone."

Meanwhile, Dr. Gowtham encourages parents to not give up on the vaccine or to change their minds about vaccinating their kids just because they may not find an appointment right away. Until you find an appointment, continue doing what you were doing like masking, distancing, and handwashing, she says.

"Remember, the vaccine is an added protection," she says. "Get it as soon as possible but until then the same things we have been saying still apply...We are very excited as pediatricians to be able to vaccinate children because the more kids we are able to vaccinate the closer we are to having some sort of normalcy."

What This Means For You

If you are like most parents, you have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to vaccinate your 5 to 11-year-old against COVID-19. But now that the vaccine has been approved, finding an appointment may be more difficult than you imagined. Experts indicate that while there may be a slight run on vaccines in the short-term, everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one, so try not to get too stressed.

If you are having trouble scheduling an appointment for your child, sign up for waiting lists and keep checking every day for open appointments. As people cancel or reschedule there may be last-minute appointments that come available. Until then, keep following the same safety protocols as before such as masking, hand washing, and distancing.

4 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. Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: FDA authorizes Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 vaccines for use as a booster dose in younger age groups.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: FDA authorizes updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccine for children down to 6 months of age.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatric COVID-19 vaccination operational planning guide.

  4. The White House. Press briefing by The White House COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials.

Additional Reading

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.