epretty much anyone in the US 6 months of age or older is now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized the pictures in June for very young children, from 6 months to 5 years. They are the last age demographic in the US eligible to be vaccinated during the pandemic.
Despite the regulatory green light, many parents of young children wonder if it’s even necessary to take them vaccinated children at this point in the pandemic because infections have become so common and the virus generally causes relatively mild symptoms in most children.
But although studies are ongoing that follow children over longer periods of time, current evidence points to more benefits than risks from vaccines for little ones. Below are some common concerns among parents, along with the latest consensus from experts on what the science shows so far.
Hospitalizations and the deaths of the youngest children are on the rise
COVID-19 does cause milder illness in children compared to adults. But Omicron has raised the stakes in this population.
Date of CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker show that during the peak of the initial Omicron wave, from January to February 2022, hospitalization rates for infants and toddlers under 4 were more than four times higher than for children aged 5 to 17 years. Public health experts say part of this may be because younger children are not yet eligible for vaccination, while older children are. The rates strongly suggest that children of any age who are not vaccinated and get COVID-19 can develop illness severe enough to require hospitalization.
Real-world data shows that the COVID-19 vaccination is safe for children
Some parents are concerned that mRNA vaccines have not been tested long enough in children. But the research presented to the FDA by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, the two companies that received pediatric approval for COVID-19 vaccines, is quite thorough. The Moderna study includes nearly 1,600 children from 6 months to 5 years, while Pfizer-BioNTechincludes more than 4,500 children from 6 months to 4 years; some of these children served as controls and received placebo injections, while others received the actual vaccine doses.
In both cases, the companies followed the children in the studies for about two months after they received the second of their two-dose primary vaccine series. In both cases, the incidence of side effects was similar to that seen in older children and adults, including from real-world data collected from hundreds of millions of adolescents and adults who had already been vaccinated with the vaccines.
None of the young children who were vaccinated in the two companies’ studies developed severe adverse reactions. The most worrisome side effect that has been documented in older children, mostly adolescents, involves inflammation of the heart tissue; this is extremely rare even in this age group, and so far has not been seen at all among younger vaccinated children.
The CDC’s System for Monitoring Adverse Effects and Reactions to Vaccines will continue to review the data to catch any signs of an increase in known side effects or reports of new ones. In addition, vaccine manufacturers will continue to study the safety and effectiveness of their vaccines in young children.
Children’s vaccines are probably as effective against Omicron as adult vaccines
As recently as 2020, mRNA vaccines generated staggering efficacy rates of over 90%. the butt efficacy levels for pictures of the youngest children they are not even impressive. Why should I swim? A different version of SARS-CoV-2 was circulating when the pictures were first developed. Both vaccines were developed to target the original virus strain that is no longer responsible for most cases of COVID-19. This strain has been superseded by a series of variants, the latest of which is Omicron and the Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, which now report half of the infections in the US
In the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech studies of younger children, participants were given the same version of the vaccine — targeting the original virus — in smaller doses. But because these studies were conducted more recently, during the first wave of Omicron this past winter, vaccine efficacy in this age group, as measured by antibodies that can neutralize the virus, reflects immunity to Omicron, not the original strain , which explains the drop. However, the antibodies tested continue to provide protection against the serious disease COVID-19 and make up only one part of the immune response generated by the vaccines.
Although they cannot completely stop the infection, vaccines reduce the risk of poor outcomes for children
People who are vaccinated and boosted can still (and will) get COVID-19. But that’s no reason not to get the photos. No vaccine, including those against childhood diseases such as measles, is 100% effective. Vaccines are primarily designed to protect people from becoming severely ill from a disease, not to ensure that they don’t get infected in the first place.
Infections occurring among vaccinated adults are due to the Omicron variant and its subvariants. Adults are immunized with vaccines that target the original virus; the strength of this immunity has waned as new variants have emerged – especially against Omicron.
However, the original vaccines are still effective in generating a broad immune response to counteract the worst effects of all SARS-CoV-2 variants, from Alpha to Omicron. In other words, even if vaccinated adults become infected, the vaccines still largely protect them from getting seriously ill with COVID-19 and needing hospitalization.
Adults who have been vaccinated and boosted generally report milder symptoms and milder illness than people who have not been vaccinated. Experts say the same seems to be true for children.
Omicron infection is safer if young children are vaccinated
Studies have documented Long COVID, a constellation of lingering symptoms involving the brain, heart and other body systems that could represent lasting health effects from an infection—but the true extent of Long COVID remains unknown. Data on Long COVID are even less complete for children, so most public health experts believe that the preventive benefits of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines outweigh any potential risks. In adults, the data show that vaccination reduces the risk of Long COVID. Studies are beginning to show that people who become infected after vaccination also experience milder symptoms and milder illness than unvaccinated people who become infected.
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