COVID vaccines for infants and toddlers could soon be available. Experts want families to prepare
Federal health officials could authorize COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than 5 this week. If they do, health experts say families should act quickly.
Doctors and public health experts suggest families with young children should make plans to get them vaccinated against the coronavirus.
A committee of independent experts with the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to meet Wednesday to decide whether to recommend authorizing vaccines for ages 6 months to 5 years.
Infants and toddlers could potentially receive three low doses from Pfizer or two from Moderna. Officials say both are safe and good at protecting against severe disease.
The FDA says children who received Pfizer’s shots during testing developed high levels of virus-fighting antibodies expected to protect them against coronavirus. That’s the basic threshold needed to win FDA authorization.
Pfizer’s vaccine, given as a three-shot series, appeared 80% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, although that calculation was based on just 10 cases diagnosed among study participants. The figure could change as Pfizer’s study continues.
Moderna’s two-dose series was about 40% to 50% effective at preventing milder infections, though the two companies’ shots were tested at different times during the pandemic, when different variants were circulating.
If either vaccine is approved, Donald Schwarz, senior vice president of program with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said families should act quickly.
“What's being predicted is another big surge [in COVID cases], potentially in the fall. We don't want children to be harmed,” Schwarz said. “We know that we've had 1,200 children or more who've died from COVID. We don't want any more children in this country to die from COVID needlessly.”
A May survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found only 1 in 5 parents of young children planned to get them vaccinated right away once authorized for this age group.
Schwarz urged families to talk to trusted health professionals and others knowledgeable about vaccines to combat misinformation spread on social media and in the community.
Working parents can also have a hard time taking time off to get their kids vaccinated, Schwarz added, and said it’s important to remove barriers.
“We also want to make sure that everybody from pharmacies to schools to recreation centers takes this on seriously, particularly over the summer, and provides more opportunities for parents to have their children immunized at convenient hours,” he said.
Even though young kids may have lower chances of getting severe COVID-19 than adults, they also have fewer options when it comes to preventing it.
Wearing masks isn't advised for children younger than 2, and oral antiviral treatments like Paxlovid are not authorized for kids under 12.
Schwarz said vaccines are safe and simple tools to reducing the risk of infection and hopes all families with young children take advantage of the opportunity to get them once they become available.
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