Children Getting Covid Shots Now Won’t Be Fully Vaccinated by Thanksgiving

Younger children in the U.S. who are now getting their first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will not reach full protection until after Thanksgiving.


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Will the newly vaccinated in the U.S. be protected for the holidays? The calendar is tight.

People hoping to gather safely with relatives for the holidays face time constraints for getting vaccinated. A mother and daughter were reunited at the airport in Sydney on Monday after Australia opened its border to fully vaccinated travelers.Credit…Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Nov. 4, 2021, 1:59 p.m. ET

With coronavirus vaccinations of children aged 5 to 11 beginning in the United States this week, parents may be wondering whether their families will now be able to gather safely for the holidays.

The dosing schedule for Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine — the one that federal regulators endorsed on Tuesday for use in those younger children — requires two shots three weeks apart. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means that even children who get the Pfizer-BioNTech shots right away will not be considered fully immunized until the first week in December — too late for Thanksgiving on Nov. 25, or the start of Hanukkah on Nov. 28.

Still, the first shot provides some protection even before the second shot is due, and there remains plenty of time for the 29 million children in that age group to get fully immunized before Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day.

The doses that children ages 5 to 11 are eligible for are one-third the size of the doses available for adults and children over 12. The needles used are smaller, and the vaccine is packaged in smaller vials, in the hope of avoiding a mix-up with adult doses.

While several million pediatric doses should be available in the next few days, the vaccination program for children 5 to 11 will not be “running at full strength” until next week, Jeffrey D. Zients, the Biden administration’s pandemic response coordinator, said on Monday.

About 68 percent of U.S. residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated so far, and 78 percent have received at least one dose, according to federal data.

Employment-related vaccination deadlines — get a shot or lose your job — have prompted many adults to get inoculated in recent weeks. Those last-minute recipients, though, face the same tight calendar before the holidays that the children do, since the C.D.C. says they are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving either a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

For those choosing to be fully protected in time for Christmas Day, Dec. 25, here are the last dates to start being vaccinated in the United States:

For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (available for adults and children 5 and older): Nov. 20.

For the Moderna vaccine (available for adults): Nov. 13.

For the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine (available for adults): Dec. 11.

Members of some Orthodox Christian churches have a little more time, because they celebrate Christmas in early January.

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