Can Kids Under 5 Get the COVID Vaccine at a Pharmacy?

covid-19 vaccine for kids 5-11 illo

Verywell Health / Michela Buttignol

Key Takeaways

  • Children as young as 6 months are now eligible to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • The PREP Act allows pharmacists in all 50 states to administer vaccines to children ages 3-18, although specific pharmacy chains can decide which ages they feel comfortable vaccinating.
  • Twenty-three states allow pharmacists to give vaccines to children younger than 3.

Nearly 18 million more kids are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Now that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized both Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for kids as young as 6 months old, parents and caregivers can begin making vaccine appointments. But the question is: Where?

Pediatricians can administer the vaccine, but getting an appointment could take some time. Many parents are wondering if local pharmacies offer vaccines for young kids, and if that setting is safe.

Right now, whether or not a child can get vaccinated at a pharmacy depends on their age and their state. Here’s what you need to know.

The Pandemic Expanded Pharmacy Vaccine Access

Historically, state law has decided whether a pharmacist could administer vaccines. In 2009, all 50 states were onboard with pharmacy vaccine programs (Maine was the last state), but only 28 states allowed pharmacists to give immunizations to children.

That changed in 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the passing of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparation (PREP) Act. PREP granted pharmacies in all 50 states the ability to administer vaccines to children as young as 3 years old without the fear of liability. Currently, according to the American Pharmacists Association and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, 27 states allow pharmacists to vaccinate children under three. 

“Pharmacies may carry the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 years, but each chain varies in the ages they serve,” Jennifer Kaufman, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children’s Health, told Verywell via email. “Some locations may be able to vaccinate children as young as 18 months. Young babies will likely need to get the vaccine at a doctor’s office.”

Are Pharmacy Vaccinations Safe?

Pharmacists are well positioned to administer vaccinations. However, vaccinating children is a little trickier than vaccinating adults, largely due to managing vaccine hesitancy and anxiety among both kids and parents.

The good news is that pharmacists and pharmacy interns receive ample vaccination training—which is required by law—for both children and adults. It is up to the specific pharmacy chain to determine which ages they feel comfortable vaccinating and which vaccines they administer.  

According to the PREP Act, state-licensed pharmacists and supervised pharmacy interns have to meet the following requirements before participating in a pharmacy based vaccination program:

  • Complete a minimum 20 hour practical training program approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) that includes hands-on injection technique, clinical evaluation of indications and contraindications of vaccines, and the recognition and treatment of emergency reactions to vaccines
  • Have a current CPR certification
  • Complete a minimum of two hours of ACPE-approved continuing pharmacy education specially related to immunizations during each state licensing period
  • Comply with documentation and record keeping requirements, including entering the record into the state or local vaccine registry when available
  • Educate parents of children on the importance of well-child visits with a pediatrician and issue a referral when needed
  • Only administer vaccines that are approved by the FDA and listed on the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) immunization schedules

Convenience Factor

The benefit of going to a local pharmacy for childhood vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine, is centered around convenience. Many offer evening, weekend, and walk-in appointments, which are typically not available at a doctor’s office.

“I plan on getting my 3-year-old vaccinated at a pharmacy,” Sarah Thompson, a mom of two from Reno, Nevada, told Verywell. “I was able to get my older son vaccinated while we were grocery shopping. It was so easy and convenient.”

Benefits of Going to a Pediatrician

While going to a pharmacy for vaccinations is convenient, there are various benefits of getting immunized by your local pediatrician or at another doctor’s office.

Kaufman suggests that pediatrician offices are always a good option for vaccination appointments because:

  • The have staff that are extremely experienced at vaccinating all ages, including babies
  • The offices are child-friendly and provide a private space
  • Pediatrician offices are used to giving a wide variety of vaccines and understand the different doses dependent on age
  • Your pediatrician is familiar with your child’s health and medical history

“I plan to get my 1-year-old daughter vaccinated for COVID during her well-child visit,” Steven Goldberg, a dad in Northern California, told Verywell. “We have a wonderful relationship with her pediatrician and she feels comfortable there.”

Not all pediatricians are thrilled with the idea of pharmacies vaccinating their young patients. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines to children is misguided.

“This unprecedented expansion of pharmacies’ ability to administer vaccines to children is not a solution to the vaccine hesitancy that is driving down rates of childhood immunizations in the U.S.,” said AAP president Sally Goza, MD, FAAP, said in a news release. “Many parents have questions about their children’s vaccines, and pediatricians are ready to talk with them. It’s what we do, every day, one-on-one with thousands of parents, as part of the long-term trusting relationships that families have with their physicians.”

For people living in rural communities, pharmacy-based vaccinations might not be available, so office-based immunizations by a family physician might be the only option.

Will Pediatricians Have Enough Supply?

To prepare for the FDA’s emergency use authorization, the Biden Administration made 10 million doses of vaccines for young children ready for pre-order for states, pediatricians, tribes, territories, community health centers, and federal pharmacy partners. However, the way vaccination doses are packaged this time around might make some pediatricians hesitant to carry it.

The COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5 comes in vials that contain 10 doses each, meaning that when one dose is given, nine more children need to receive a dose within 12 hours or the vial goes to waste. This can be a real challenge for a doctor’s office, which may not need to vaccinate that many kids for COVID in one day.

If you’re hoping to get your child vaccinated by their pediatrician, call ahead to make sure the vaccine is in stock.

Most Parents Have a Choice 

The bottom line is parents have choices when it comes to where they get their young children vaccinated for COVID-19.

If you plan on getting your child vaccinated at a local pharmacy, make sure to call and inquire if they administer vaccinations to small children. Most states have websites set up for online appointments.

It is important to stay up to date on all childhood vaccines, especially for the upcoming school year. If you choose to vaccinate your child for COVID-19 at their pediatrician’s office, make sure to ask if they are due for any additional vaccinations, eliminating the need for another visit down the road.

What This Means For You

Parents can decide if they want their child vaccinated at a pharmacy or at a doctor’s office. While pharmacies offer convenient hours and walk-in appointments, not every state allows pharmacies to vaccinate young kids. The pediatrician’s office is a familiar space, with experienced staff that understand your child’s health and medical history. Call your local pharmacy ahead of time to see if the administer vaccinations to young children.

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.

5 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. American Hospital Association. COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months–4 years old preliminary considerations for pediatric planning

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: fda authorizes moderna and pfizer-biontech covid-19 vaccines for children down to 6 months of age.

  3. Department of Health and Human Services. PREP Act immunity from liability for COVID-19 vaccinators.

  4. American Pharmacists Association; National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations. Pharmacist administered vaccines: based on NASPA analysis of state pharmacy practice laws.

  5. Department of Health and Human Services. PREP Act guidance: seventh amendment to declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act for medical countermeasures against COVID–19.

By Amy Isler, RN, MSN, CSN
Amy Isler, RN, MSN, CSN, is a registered nurse with over six years of patient experience. She is a credentialed school nurse in California.