The vaccines become available this week, extending the country’s vaccination campaign to children up to 6 months old.
Counselors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended vaccines for younger children, and the final indication came hours later from Dr. Rochelle Valensky, the agency’s director.
“We know that millions of parents and carers are willing to vaccinate their young children and with today’s decision, they can,” Walensky said in a statement.
While the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines, it is up to the CDC to decide who should get them.
Vaccines offer young children protection from hospitalization, death and possible long-term complications that are not yet clearly understood, the CDC advisory committee said.
The government is already preparing for the vaccine extension, with millions of doses ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics across the country.
About 18 million children will be eligible, but it remains to be seen how many will eventually be vaccinated. Less than a third of children aged 5 to 11 have done so since the vaccine opened last November.
Here are some things to know:
WHAT ITEMS ARE AVAILABLE?
Two brands – Pfizer and Moderna – got the green light on Friday from the FDA. Vaccines use the same technology, but are available in different dose sizes and number of vaccines for younger children.
The Pfizer vaccine is for 6 months to 4 years. The dose is one tenth of the adult dose and requires three shots. The first two are given three weeks apart and the last at least two months later.
Moderna’s is two vaccines, each a quarter of its adult dose, about four weeks apart for children 6 months to 5 months old. The FDA has also approved a third dose, at least one month after the second shot, for children with cause them to be more vulnerable to serious diseases.
HOW WELL DO THEY WORK?
In studies, vaccinated young people developed levels of antibodies that fight the virus as strongly as young adults, suggesting that child-sized doses protect against coronavirus infections.
However, how well they work is difficult to determine, especially when it comes to the Pfizer vaccine.
Two doses of Moderna appeared to be only about 40% effective in preventing milder infections at a time when the omicron variant was causing most COVID-19 diseases. Pfizer presented study information suggesting that the company saw 80% of its three downloads. But Pfizer data was so limited – and based on such a small number of cases – that experts and federal officials say they do not believe there is a reliable estimate yet.
SHOULD MY LITTLE VACCINATE?
Yes, according to CDC advisers. While COVID-19 was the most dangerous for the elderly, younger people, including children, can also get very sick.
Hospitalizations increased during the micron wave. Since the pandemic began, some 480 children under the age of five have been among the more than 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the country, according to federal figures.
“It’s worth the vaccine, although the number of deaths is relatively rare, because these deaths can be prevented through vaccination,” said Dr Matthew Daly, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente Colorado who is on the advisory board.
WHAT VACCINE SHOULD MY CHILD GET?
Either one or both, says Dr. Peter Marks, head of vaccination at the FDA.
“Whatever vaccine the pediatrician, the health care provider, has, I would give it to my child,” Marx said Friday.
The doses have not been tested against each other, so experts say there is no way to tell if one is better.
One thought: It takes about three months to complete a series of three Pfizer shots, but only one month for Moderna two shots. Thus, families who want to protect children quickly may want Moderna.
WHO GIVES THE MANY?
Pediatricians, other primary care physicians and pediatric hospitals plan to provide the vaccines. Limited pharmacies will offer them for at least some of the group under 5 years.
U.S. officials expect most of the shootings to take place at pediatricians’ offices. Many parents may feel more comfortable getting their children vaccinated at their regular doctor, said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. He predicted that the rate of vaccination would be much slower than for larger populations.
“We will see vaccinations increase over the weeks, even possibly within a few months,” Ja said.
CAN CHILDREN DO ANOTHER VACCINATIONS AT THE SAME TIME?
It is common for young children to get more than one vaccine when they see a doctor.
In studies of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in infants and toddlers, no other vaccinations were given at the same time, so there is no evidence of possible side effects when this occurs.
However, no problems have been identified in older children or adults when the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines have been given together, and the CDC advises that it is safe for younger children as well.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CHILD HAS RECENTLY COVID-19?
About three-quarters of children of all ages are estimated to be infected at some point. For older people, the CDC has recommended vaccination anyway to reduce the chances of re-infection.
Experts have noted re-infections among people who have been infected in the past and say that the highest levels of protection occur in those who have been vaccinated and have been infected in the past.
The CDC has said that people may consider waiting about three months after infection to be vaccinated.
Note: The video at the top of this player is from a previous report
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