COVID vaccine for kids: CDC recommends for 5 and under

The vaccines will be available this week, expanding the nationwide immunization campaign to children 6 months and older.

NEW YORK — The United States opened up COVID-19 vaccines to infants, toddlers and preschoolers on Saturday.

The vaccines will be available this week, expanding the nationwide immunization campaign to children 6 months and older.

Advisors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccines for the youngest children, and final approval came hours later from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director.

“We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and today’s decision lets them do that,” Walensky said in a statement.

While the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines, the CDC decides who should receive them.

The syringes offer young children protection from hospitalization, death and possible long-term complications that are not yet clearly understood, the CDC advisory panel said.

The government has already prepared for the vaccine’s roll-out, ordering millions of doses for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics across the country.

About 18 million children are eligible, but it remains to be seen how many will ultimately receive the vaccines. Less than a third of children aged 5 to 11 have done so since the vaccine was opened to them last November.

Here are some things you should know:

What varieties are there?

Two brands — Pfizer and Moderna — were given the go-ahead by the FDA on Friday and the CDC on Saturday. The vaccines use the same technology but come in different dose sizes and number of shots for the youngest children.

Pfizer’s vaccine is for children aged 6 months to 4 years. The dose is one-tenth the adult dose, and three shots are needed. The first two are awarded three weeks apart, the last two at least two months later.

Moderna’s consists of two shots, each a quarter of the adult dose, given to children ages 6 months to 5 years about four weeks apart. The FDA also approved a third dose, at least a month after the second injection, for children with immune disorders that make them more susceptible to serious illness.

How well do they work?

In studies, vaccinated youth developed virus-fighting antibodies as strong as young adults, suggesting the child-sized doses protect against coronavirus infections.

However, exactly 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 at preventing lighter infections at a time when the Omicron variant was causing most COVID-19 illnesses. Pfizer provided study information that suggested the company saw 80% with its three shots. But the Pfizer data was so limited — and based on such a small number of cases — that experts and federal officials say they don’t think there’s a reliable estimate yet.

Should my little one be vaccinated?

Yes, according to the CDC. While COVID-19 has been most dangerous for older adults, younger people, including children, can also become very ill.

Hospitalizations increased during the Omicron wave. Since the pandemic began, about 480 children under the age of 5 are among the more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the country, according to federal figures.

“It’s worth vaccinating even though the number of deaths is relatively rare because those deaths are preventable with vaccination,” said Dr. Matthew Daley, a Kaiser Permanente Colorado researcher who sits on the CDC Advisory Committee.

In a statement Saturday, President Joe Biden urged parents to get them for their young children as soon as possible.

What vaccination should my child get?

Either one, said Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccine chief.

“Whatever vaccine your healthcare provider or pediatrician has, I would give that to my child,” Marks said Friday.

The doses haven’t been tested against each other, so experts say there’s no way to tell if one is better.

A consideration: It takes about three months to complete Pfizer’s three-shot series, but only a month for Moderna’s two-shots. Families looking to protect kids quickly may want Moderna.

Who gives the shot?

Paediatricians, other family doctors and children’s hospitals are planning to provide the vaccines. Limited drugstores will offer them to at least part of the under 5s group.

US officials believe most of the shootings will take place in pediatricians’ offices. Many parents feel more comfortable getting their children’s vaccines from their regular doctor, said Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 Coordinator. He predicted that the pace of vaccination will be far slower than in older populations.

“We will see immunizations ramping up over weeks and possibly even over a couple of months,” Jha said.

Can children receive other vaccinations at the same time?

It’s common for young children to receive more than one vaccine during a doctor’s visit.

In studies of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in infants and young children, other vaccines were not given at the same time, so there is no data on possible side effects if this happens.

However, no problems have been identified in older children or adults when COVID-19 shots and other vaccinations are given together, and the CDC advises that it is safe for younger children as well.

What if my child recently had COVID-19?

It is estimated that around three quarters of children of all ages have been infected at some point. For older people, the CDC has recommended vaccination anyway to reduce the chance of reinfection.

Experts have found reinfections in previously infected people and say the highest level of protection occurs in people who were both vaccinated and previously infected.

The CDC has said people might consider waiting about three months after infection to get vaccinated. COVID vaccine for kids: CDC recommends for 5 and under

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