3 ways COVID vaccine for kids differs from regular dose

Photo of Jordan Fenster
This October 2021 photo provided by Pfizer shows kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Puurs, Belgium. The vaccine appear safe and nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday, Oct. 22, as the U.S. considers opening vaccinations to that age group.

This October 2021 photo provided by Pfizer shows kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Puurs, Belgium. The vaccine appear safe and nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday, Oct. 22, as the U.S. considers opening vaccinations to that age group.

Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for use in children ages 5 to 11.

If approved, those vaccines will be very similar to the Pfizer doses already administered to millions of Americans — similar, but not exactly the same.

The state Department of Public Health sent a note to vaccine providers last week, warning that the “Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds will be a new product,” and the “current product for adults and adolescents should not be used in children.”

Here are three ways the vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 will be different than the doses administered to adults and adolescents:

1. The bottle

In order to differentiate between the doses intended for children and those for adults, the vials will have a different-colored cap, to easier identify each of them.

The vials for children will have orange caps, as opposed to the vials for adolescents and adults that are capped purple.

“For children under 12 years of age, you cannot use the current formulation and will need to use the future pediatric (orange cap) formulation,” DPH said in a preliminary explanation for vaccine providers.

2. The formulations

The vaccine is given in a far smaller dose, 10 micrograms for kids versus 30 for adolescents and adults.

Each needle will contain less liquid — 0.2 milliliters injected into kids’ arms — compared to 0.3 injected into their parents and siblings.

That allows for more doses in every vial, 10 doses in every orange-capped vial, compared to six doses per vial of adult vaccine.

3. Storage

The kids’ vaccine can be stored at ultra-low temperatures for a shorter period of time, six months, compared to nine months for the adult vaccine.

But the children’s doses can be stored at a regular temperature, in a standard refrigerator, for more than double the amount of time. Adult doses can only be stored at standard refrigeration temperatures for four weeks.

COVID vaccine for kids can be stored in a refrigerator for 10 weeks, according to DPH.