COVID vaccine for kids: CDC recommends for 5 and under

The CDC director is expected to sign off and finalize the recommendation later today.

NEW YORK — U.S. health advisers on Saturday recommended COVID-19 vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers — the last unvaccinated group.

Advisors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously decided that coronavirus vaccines should be opened up to children as young as 6 months. The final clearance was given later in the day by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky expected.

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

The government has been preparing for shots to begin early next week, 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 — received FDA greenlights on Friday. The vaccines use the same technology but come in different dose sizes and number of shots for the youngest children.

Pfizer’s vaccine is valid for 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.

Modernas are two shots, each a quarter of the adult dose, given to children ages 6 to 5 about four weeks apart. The FDA also approved a third dose, at least a month after the second shot, for children with immune disorders that cause them more prone 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 CDC consultants. 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. Federal data shows that since the pandemic began, about 480 children under the age of 5 are counted among the more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the country.

“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 researcher from Kaiser Permanente Colorado who sits on the Advisory Board.

What vaccination should my child get?

Both, says 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 would 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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