Finally, vaccinations have become available to children in the United States as young as 5 years old, much to the relief of some parents, even if others have questions or concerns.
Late Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave final approval to children ages 5-11 to receive children’s doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. Pediatricians and other medical groups have praised the move and are preparing to help families decide whether to vaccinate their children.
The shots may be available as early as Wednesday and will be offered in pediatric offices, clinics and pharmacies. Like COVID-19 vaccines for adults, they are free.
Here’s what you need to know:
DO CHILDREN OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AGE NEED TO BE INOCULATED?
Yes, according to US health authorities and top medical groups. Although the virus tends to be more serious in adults than in children, COVID-19 causes a lot of preventable suffering among young people. About 1.9 million children aged 5 to 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19. About 8,300 people were hospitalized, about a third required intensive care, and at least 94 deaths were confirmed.
This is not counting the risk of a serious complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which can affect children several weeks after they recover from even a mild infection.
The vaccine also promises to help children resume school and social activities more safely.
CHILD DOSES ARE ALSO SIZED AS ADULTS?
No. Children aged 5 to 11 receive a third of the dose taken by adolescents and adults. That’s 10 micrograms per shot for youth, compared to 30 micrograms per shot for all 12 years and older. Like everyone else, younger children will receive two shots three weeks apart.
HOW WELL DO IT WORK?
In a study, Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine proved to be nearly 91% effective in preventing symptomatic infection. The vaccinated young adults had the same high levels of antibodies to fight the virus as the adolescents and young adults who received the full dose.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
In the trial, children aged 5 to 11 years had some irritating reactions after being shot, including pain in the arms and fatigue, similar to those seen in adolescents and young adults, but with a lower likelihood of fever. In total, 4600 young people were included in the study, of whom 3100 received the vaccine, and the rest received pacifiers. The FDA found no safety issues.
WHAT ABOUT RARE PROBLEMS?
Tens of millions of high doses have been safely taken by Americans 12 and older. One very rare serious side effect has been identified: inflammation of the heart.
These rare reactions have occurred mainly in young men or adolescent boys, usually after a second dose, and they usually recover quickly. To put the risk in context, doctors say COVID-19 infection can cause more severe heart inflammation. One theory is that testosterone and puberty play a role, which is partly why experts expect any risk to young children to be even lower.
WHAT IF MY CHILD IS 12?
The CDC said children should get their age-appropriate dose on the day of vaccination. Thus, if a child receives 10 micrograms for the first shot and then turns 12, the second dose should be 30 micrograms.
SHOULD I ONLY WAIT UNTIL THEIR 12TH BIRTHDAY FOR BOTH ISSUES TO BE A GREAT DOSE?
Pediatricians advise not to delay vaccination because a child-sized dose is effective in this age group.
THE CDC MOVEMENT – A MANDATE?
No. The CDC did not require young people to be vaccinated, but recommended them.
ARE ONLY SOME CHILDREN AT HIGH RISK OF SEVERE COVID-19 ALLOWED?
Nearly 70% of children aged 5 to 11 years hospitalized for COVID-19 had other health problems, including obesity and asthma. But sometimes healthy people also get seriously ill. And given the profound social, mental and educational impact the pandemic has had on young people, health authorities have made it clear that all children must be vaccinated. There are also concerns about fairness, as more than two-thirds of admitted young people are Black or Hispanic.
WHAT IF MY CHILD HAS ALREADY KNOWN COVID-19?
They still need to get vaccinated after they recover, according to the CDC. It is understood that prior infection does provide some protection against another attack, but this immunity can vary depending on how seriously the person has been ill and for how long. Research in adults has shown that post-exposure vaccination can significantly increase protection.
THE PFIZER VACCINE IS THE ONLY CHOICE FOR CHILDREN?
This is still the case in the United States. A similar vaccine, Moderna, is used by adolescents in several other countries and is being tested in young children, but is not yet available to Americans under the age of 18. Several other countries have used other types of COVID-19 vaccines for young children, including China, which has just begun vaccinating 3-year-olds.
What about vaccinations for children under 5 in the United States?
Stay tuned: Pfizer and Moderna are testing low doses in infants and preschoolers.