NEW YORK – US health advisers on Saturday recommended vaccines against COVID-19 for infants, young children and preschoolers – the last group without vaccines.
Counselors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously decided that coronavirus vaccines should be open to children as young as 6 months. Final approval was expected later in the day by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky.
While the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines, it is the CDC that decides who should receive them.
The government is preparing for the start of filming early next week, v millions of doses ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and public health clinics across the country.
Approximately 18 million children will be eligible, but it remains to be seen how many will eventually receive the vaccines. Less than a third of children aged 5 to 11 have done so since their vaccination was launched last November.
Here are some things you need to know:
WHAT KINDS ARE AVAILABLE?
Two brands – Pfizer and Moderna – received the green light on Friday from the FDA.Vaccines use the same technology, but are available in different dose sizes and vaccine numbers for the youngest children.
The Pfizer vaccine is for 6 months to 4 years. The dose is one tenth of the adult dose and three injections are needed. The first two are given at intervals of three weeks, and the last at least two months later.
Moderna’s is two injections, one quarter of the adult dose, given at intervals of about four weeks for children 6 to 5 months. The FDA has also approved a third dose, at least a month after the second injection, for children with immune conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness.
HOW GOOD DO THEY WORK?
In studies, vaccinated young people developed levels of antibodies that fight the virus as strong as young adults, suggesting that doses the size of a child 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 appear to be only about 40% effective in preventing milder infections at a time when the omicron variant causes most COVID-19 diseases. Pfizer provided information from the survey, which suggests that the company saw 80% with its three shots. But Pfizer’s data has been so limited – and based on so few cases – that experts and federal officials say they believe there is still no reliable estimate.
SHOULD MY LITTLE BE VACCINATED?
Yes, according to CDC advisers. While COVID-19 is the most dangerous for the elderly, younger people, including children, can also get very ill.
Hospitalizations increased during the omicron wave. Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 480 children under the age of 5 have been among the more than 1 million deaths in the country from COVID-19, according to federal data.
“It is worth getting vaccinated, although the number of deaths is relatively rare because these deaths are preventable through vaccination,” he said. Matthew Daly, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, who is on the advisory committee.
WHAT VACCINE SHOULD MY CHILD RECEIVE?
Both, says Dr. Peter Marx, head of vaccines at the FDA.
“Whatever vaccine your healthcare provider, a pediatrician, has, I would give it to my child,” Marx said on Friday.
Doses have not been tested against each other, so experts say there is no way to tell if one is better.
One consideration: It takes about three months to complete a series of three Pfizer shots, but only one month for both Moderna shots. So families who want to quickly protect their children may want Moderna.
Pediatricians, other primary care physicians and children’s hospitals plan to provide vaccines. Limited drugstores will offer them for at least part of the group under 5 years.
U.S. officials expect most photos to be taken in pediatricians’ offices. Many parents may feel more comfortable getting the vaccine for their children from their regular doctor, White House Coordinator COVID-19. said Ashish Ja. He predicts that the rate of vaccination will be much slower than in older populations.
“We will see vaccinations increase in weeks and even potentially in a few months,” Ja said.
CAN CHILDREN RECEIVE OTHER VACCINES AT THE SAME TIME?
It is common for young children to receive more than one vaccine during a visit to the doctor.
In studies of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in infants and young children, other vaccinations have not been given at the same time, so there are no data on potential side effects when this happens.
But no problems have been found in older children or adults when vaccines against COVID-19 and other vaccinations have been given together, and the CDC advises that it is safe for younger children as well.
IF MY CHILD RECEIVES COVID-19 SOON?
About three-quarters of children of all ages are thought to have been infected at some point. For older adults, the CDC recommended vaccination anyway to reduce the chances of re-infection.
Experts note re-infections among previously infected people and say the highest levels of protection are seen in those who have been vaccinated and previously infected.
The CDC said people may consider waiting about three months after infection to be vaccinated.
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