A Verywell Report: COVID Vaccines for Kids Will Move the Needle for America

covid-19 vaccine for kids 5-11 illo

Verywell Health / Michela Buttignol

A new analysis from Verywell finds that at least 65% of Americans are projected to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021.

In the immediate future, vaccinations among kids and teens, specifically, will be the biggest driver of increased vaccination rates in the United States. And if current trends continue, 56% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 could be fully vaccinated before the new year, compared to 51% at time of publishing.

The only vaccine authorized for use in people under the age of 18 is Pfizer.

What about younger kids? In October, children aged 5 to 11 became eligible for vaccination. About 10% of children in this age group have received their first dose, the White House announced on November 17. By year’s end, 22% of this age group is expected to be fully vaccinated.

This number is based on the trajectory of vaccinations seen among 12- to 17-year-olds. But we already know that the vaccination trends for the younger age group may not precisely mirror the rollout for teens. The younger the kids, the more parents worry.

In a late October survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about half of parents said their 12- to 17-year-old child is vaccinated or will be “right away.” Comparatively, 27% of parents of children aged 5 to 11 said they would have their child vaccinated right away, and a third said they plan to “wait and see.” For both groups, 3 in 10 parents said they will definitely not have their child vaccinated.

According to the Verywell vaccine sentiment tracker, the largest concern for surveyed parents of school-aged children is the risk of side effects, though they are even more apprehensive of their child getting COVID-19 and experiencing long-term effects.

Why Vaccinating Kids Matters for Everyone

If our projections for increased vaccination rates among kids hold true, 15 states may well be on their way to fully vaccinating 70% of their populations by the end of the year.

While experts say the elusive goal of ending the pandemic by reaching “herd immunity” is likely out of reach at this point, a 70% vaccination rate across communities could be instrumental in tamping down widespread transmission.

Why 70%?

While there’s still no clear percentage of the population necessary to reach herd immunity for COVID-19, 70% is a good place to start. Herd immunity refers to the protectiveness achieved when a significant portion of a population develops immunity to an infectious disease, either through vaccination or having a prior illness. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, used to say 60% to 70% of the population needed to be vaccinated or recovered to reach herd immunity, his projection has evolved to range from 70% to 90%.

Puerto Rico boasts the highest vaccination rate of the U.S. states and territories, with nearly 74% of the population vaccinated today. Vermont follows closely behind at more than 71%. By the end of the year, the top four states and territories may see vaccination rates over 78%.

West Virginia is lagging behind the rest, at only 41% of the populace currently vaccinated. The five states at the bottom of the list are expected to fall short of the 50% mark by year’s end.

Vaccinating Children Can Limit COVID-19 Spread Ahead of the Holidays

While adults are known to experience more severe outcomes of COVID-19, unvaccinated children are still vulnerable to serious illness and death and can suffer the effects of long COVID-19 if they are infected.

As we enter the holiday season, experts say that even one dose of the vaccine can minimize the risk of children spreading COVID-19 to more vulnerable loved ones, like grandparents and older adults who are more susceptible to breakthrough cases.

A variety of sites offer vaccinations for kids across the country. You can contact your child’s pediatrician or general care team to see if they offer vaccine appointments or visit major pharmacies, including locations like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. Many communities have also set up clinics at trusted locations like schools and places of worship.

Kids aged 5 to 11 receive a smaller dose than adults and teens. Vaccination sites like pharmacies and doctors’ offices were slower to roll out the vaccine after authorization for the younger age group because sites had to wait for new inventory shipments from Pfizer.

You can check for available appointments near you at All clinics that appear on this site have vaccines on hand to dole out to youngsters.


Projection for 5- to 11-year-olds was calculated by assuming the same percentage of children in that group would be vaccinated before year's end (57 days at the time of calculation) as were 12- to 17-year-olds since the authorization of the vaccine for that age group.

Projection for 12- to 17-year-olds vaccinated was taken by applying the rate of change over the previous 28 days to the number of days before year's end.

Projected total population vaccinated by the end of year was calculated by summing the projected fully vaccinated populations for both 5- to 11-year-olds and 12- to 17-year-olds with the 18+ population. The projections for the 18+ population was derived using the same methodology as the 12- to 17-year-olds.

COVID-19 vaccination data was taken from the CDC’s dataset on vaccination rates by US state jurisdictions. All percentages were derived using ACS 2019 5-year estimate Census data.

November 23, 2021: A previous version of this projection miscalculated the number of 12-17-year-olds in the United States, slightly underestimating their year-end vaccination rate.

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.

4 Sources
Verywell Health 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. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. COVID data tracker.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC recommends pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years.

  3. Hamel L, Lopes L, Sparks G, et al. KFF COVID-19 vaccine monitor: October 2021. Kaiser Family Foundation.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States.

By Claire Bugos
Claire Bugos is a health and science reporter and writer and a 2020 National Association of Science Writers travel fellow.