Where Can Kids Under 5 Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Vaccination sites across the country have begun administering COVID-19 shots to children under 5 years old. Here's how to make an appointment near you.

COVID-19 vaccinations have finally been approved for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. In mid-June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized three low doses of Pfizer for children ages 6 months through 4 years old. Two doses of Moderna have also been approved for children ages 6 months through 5 years old.

Vaccine rollout began June 21 across the country, but some parents are having trouble securing appointments. Here are some tips for finding a vaccination site near you—plus details on the White House's plan to distribute the pediatric vaccines across the country.

Kid Boy Receiving a Vaccine Shot During a Pandemic
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What Will Pediatric Vaccine Distribution Look Like?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden, talked about vaccine distribution in an exclusive interview with Parents. He says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already shipped large quantities of the vaccine nationwide. "There should be a pretty good supply of vaccines at the local level for families who want to vaccinate their children," says Dr. Fauci.

The White House made available 10 million vaccine doses (equal numbers of Pfizer and Moderna) to states and health providers in preparation for the FDA and CDC authorizations, with "millions more available in the coming weeks," according to a White House fact sheet from June 9. The first preorder batch started arriving on June 20, with the second batch already in the works. (Note that Florida was the only state that didn't allow health care providers to preorder the vaccines, but it changed its stance after the FDA authorization, and now doctors can order vaccines as needed.)

The White House says that 85% of kids under 5 live within five miles of a vaccination site. Also, "to ensure that we are able to reach a broad range of pediatric providers—including those in smaller practices and in rural settings—vaccines will be available in package sizes of 100 doses and will come with all of the supplies that health care providers need to serve younger kids, including small needles."

Where Can Kids Under 5 Get Vaccinated?

Parents won't be taking their kids to the mass vaccination clinics that existed when the COVID shots first became available for adults. Instead, vaccination will largely happen in pediatrician's offices, according to Ashish Jha, M.D., MPH, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator, in an exclusive interview with Parents. Other distribution sites include pharmacies, retailers, community health centers, children's hospitals, community organizations, and more.

Parents should visit vaccines.gov to find appointments available near them. The website is run by the HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Boston Children's Hospital.

Pediatricians Offices

Pediatricians will be a major supplier of vaccines for kids because "a lot of parents will trust their pediatrician or daily practitioners," says Dr. Jha. Indeed, according to the White House, more than three-fourths of young kids receive their flu vaccine in a doctor's office, and the familiar setting might promote one-on-one conversations about the vaccines.

Many pediatricians have already preordered vaccine doses, but not all offices plan to offer them. For example, providers in rural areas might not think local demand warrants ordering (and potentially wasting) batches of vaccines, which come in package sizes of 100 doses.

You can always call your primary care provider to find out their vaccine distribution plans. If they aren't vaccinating young kids—or if your children don't have a pediatrician at all—you can try one of the other vaccine suppliers outlined below. You might also contact a pediatrician who does offer the vaccine to see if they'll accommodate you.

Pharmacies and Retailers

Many pharmacies and retailers aren't offering the COVID-19 vaccine to kids under 3. That's because HHS expanded the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act in 2020, allowing licensed pharmacists in all states to vaccinate kids 3 years and older. In many states, practice laws and special training requirements make it difficult to vaccinate kids younger than that, according to the Washington Post.

If your child is over 3 years old, you might be able to schedule a vaccination appointment at select locations of Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Wegmans, and other retailers. Most distributors have limited availability right now. Some locations allow for walk-ins, while others require a scheduled appointment—call your store or pharmacy for more information.

If you're looking to vaccinate a toddler, you're not completely out of luck. Locations of CVS MinuteClinics are providing Pfizer to people 18 months to 4 years old; find a location near you on the CVS website. MinuteClinics are staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants with the proper licensing to administer the vaccinations. There are 1,100 MinuteClinics nationwide (compared to nearly 10,000 CVS stores).

Children's Hospitals and Health Systems

According to the White House fact sheet, the Biden Administration is partnering with the Children's Hospital Association to provide pediatric vaccines at more than 120 children's hospitals in 47 states and Washington D.C.

Public Health Clinics

Vaccines will also be available at state and local public health clinics. The White House hopes this effort will benefit hard-to-reach families, as well as those without a pediatrician. "The Administration will make available federal funding to support states as they stand up and operate these clinics, and will work hand-in-hand with states to maximize vaccination coverage and availability, particularly in the hardest-hit, highest-risk communities," according to its fact sheet.

The Bottom Line

Rollout for pediatric vaccines is just beginning, and it's likely to ramp up in the coming weeks. In the meantime, visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites near you.

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