COVID-19 vaccinations for children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years were finally approved Saturday. This was the only age group left in the U.S. that are not eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations, other than infants.
The approval by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky means that the shots could be available in Kentucky as early as next week.
Walensky’s approval followed recommendations of panels of independent advisers to the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration that both Moderna and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines for children be approved. On Friday, the FDA authorized emergency use of the vaccines.
“I’m not going to say that this is the day that so many parents have been waiting for,” Dr. Kristina Bryant, an infectious-diseases specialist with Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, said in an online news conference. “I think that day is the day their kids actually get vaccinated against Covid-19.”
The vaccines will be available through doctors’ offices, clinics and pharmacies. Children under the age of three must get their vaccine at a clinic or doctor’s office since pharmacies can only administer vaccines to children 3 years of age or older.
There are an estimated 246,000 children 6 months to 4 years of age in Kentucky that will be newly eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the state Department for Public Health.
Most pre-ordered vaccine doses for younger children are expected to arrive Wednesday and Thursday, June 22 and 23, but may not be widely available until early July because providers may need time to adjust their policies and procedures to accommodate this new patient group, KDPH said in an e-mail.
The two-dose Moderna vaccine is for children 6 months to 5 years of age and the three-shot Pfizer vaccine is for children 6 months to 4 years. The vaccines are the same as the adult vaccines, but will be given in smaller doses.
Which one should you choose? The Associated Press reports, “In a call with reporters earlier this week, vaccine experts noted that the shots haven’t been tested against each other, so there’s no way to tell parents if one is superior.”
Asked if one was better than the other, Bryant said if federal health officials determine that both of these vaccines are equally beneficial, “I would encourage parents to do what they normally do with other vaccines, and that is to get whatever vaccine their pediatrician offers.”
To parents who say that their child doesn’t need a vaccine because most children who get the virus have mild cases or are asymptomatic, Bryant said some otherwise healthy children get very sick and are hospitalized or even die. Others, she said, get a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, and others get “long Covid.” And even if they get a mild case, she said, they can still be pretty miserable for a week or so.
“For parents, you don’t know which group your child is going to be in. Is your child going to be one of the ones who has mild disease or is your child going to be one of the ones who get sick. . . . There’s just no way to predict,” she said. “Vaccination is the best way to protect your child against Covid.”
She added that side effects from the vaccine have been “mild to moderate” and include fever, fatigue and soreness at the injection site.
It is uncertain how many Kentucky parents will get their young children vaccinated against Covid-19 since the pediatric Covid-19 vaccination rate for children 5-11 remains below the national average.
“Only 23% of Kentucky children 5-11 years of age and 49% of children 12-15 years of age have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, compared to national averages of 29.4% and 59.7%, respectively,” the state health department said.
“I think we need to get the message out that yes, these vaccines are beneficial,” said Bryant. “Vaccines have been recommended for kids 5 and above for some months now and millions of kids have safely received these vaccines and been protected.”
Once they become available, go to vaccines.gov to find a provider that offers these vaccines to children under 5.