AFTER more than a year of clinical trials, children in the United States between the ages of 6 months and 4 years old are now permitted to receive the COVID vaccine, nearly closing the gap between the unvaccinated and vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on vaccines for young children last week, one day after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced three new authorizations regarding coronavirus vaccines.
Specifically, the FDA approved Pfizer shots for children between 6 months and 4 years old; Moderna shots for children between 6 months and 5 years old; and Moderna shots for children between 6 and 17 years old. (Previously, Pfizer was the only option for the latter age bracket.)
According to Moderna, the company’s vaccine for 6-month-olds to 5-year-olds will have a quarter of the strength of the adult dose and should be administered in two doses one month apart.
Pfizer’s vaccine for 6-month-olds to 4-year-olds is about one-tenth of the adult version’s strength takes three shots; the second shot is administered 21 days after the first, and the third is given 60 days after the second, according to the company.
As of press time, vaccinations for this age group have already begun across the country. As was the case with all prior vaccinations, every age-eligible child — regardless of immigration or insurance status — may receive their shots, is permitted to receive their free-of-cost shots.
California, which has been a leader in vaccinations since they were publicly made available, has 400,000 doses to distribute to this age group currently, but the state recently purchased more to cater to the 2.2 million children in this age bracket.
Parents and families who are still skeptical over the vaccine’s safety, particularly with younger children, may want to consider the alternative to not getting the vaccine, said Dr. Lucia Abascal of the California Dept. of Public Health.
“The decision to not vaccinate is the decision to get the COVID virus,” Abscal said in a press conference on Thursday, June 23.
She added that although “[t]here’s no predicting how severe that will be,” if you take “a chance that it will be mild, just know that one in five children [hospitalized for COVID] end up in the intensive care unit.”
According to the latest metrics, COVID is the fifth-leading cause of death among children between the ages of 1 and 4 years old, and it is the fourth-leading cause for infants younger than 1 year old.
Even though prior COVID infections provides some immunity for the future, Abascal said that immunity is less than that which is provided by vaccines.
“There’s this idea that the omicron variant is milder, but within this age group, when the omicron variant started surging, there were record hospitalizations,” Abascal added. “That misconception that kids are safe, that nothing happens to kids, is wrong. We have more and more evidence that kids are at an acute risk [and] can suffer consequences, such as multi-inflammatory syndrome or long COVID.”
Pharmacies are prohibited from administering vaccines to anyone younger than 3 years old, per federal law, but parents and guardians can visit MyTurn to find a clinic accepting infants and toddlers if they don’t have a primary care doctor.
“This vaccine is going to be the most heavily studied vaccine in history,” noted Dr. Jennifer Miller of East Bay Pediatrics. “They’ve been properly tested and vetted. The production didn’t cut any corners.”
Miller added that the vaccine adds extra protection as children are slowly gaining back their freedom to socialize and participate in school and community activities.
Parents may be fearful of the vaccine side effects, but Miller warned that the physical side effects from the COVID vaccine are nothing compared to actually contracting COVID.”
She said, “I try to remind [parents] t hat we’re all in this together. Getting our children vaccinated helps us all and improves the health of our community.”
According to the latest data provided by the California Dept. of Public Health, about 36% of all 5 to 11-year-olds — who were given the OK to get the Covid vaccine in November 2021 — have been vaccinated so far. Across all age groups, nearly 79% of all eligible Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)