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The City Journals

FDA approval provides COVID vaccines for children between 6 months and 5 years old

Jul 01, 2022 12:05PM ● By Peri Kinder

By Peri Kinder | [email protected]

With COVID now the fourth leading cause of death for children under the age of 1 and the fifth leading cause of death for children ages 5 and under, medical professionals believe the approval of a new COVID vaccine for children is a glimmer of hope.

Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah and director of epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, discussed the new vaccine approved by the FDA in June.

“This is really a big step,” Pavia said. “We’ve had several months now in which there’s been a lot of disease out there and younger children have not had any vaccine availability to provide them protection. It’s caused a lot of heartache for parents.”

The FDA reviewed scientific evidence submitted for vaccines by Moderna, for children ages 6 months to 5 years, and Pfizer-BioNTech, for children ages 6 months to 4 years. The advisory panel of outside experts unanimously voted for approval of both vaccines for this age group 21-0.

Pavia understands many parents have vaccine hesitancy in regard to COVID. He suggests parents talk with a trusted healthcare provider to get reliable information about the vaccine and how it can help keep their children safe.

“I think you should do it,” he said. “I would vaccinate my grandkids if I had any, but I think it’s really a decision every parent needs to make.”

This age group is the last to be approved for a COVID vaccine, which can now be found at pediatrician offices, pharmacies, the Salt Lake County Health Department and other health departments.

“It’s a myth that children don’t get sick with COVID because they do and it’s been pretty tragic,” he said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, COVID targeted older people but with the Delta and Omicron variants, the number of children infected is rising. More than 570,000 children under the age of 1 and nearly 2 million between the ages of 1 and 4 have been diagnosed with COVID since March 2020, with the numbers rising significantly since the beginning of the year.

Numbers are expected to spike this fall and winter as kids return to school and daycare, and as new variants appear on the scene.

“With Omicron, it really hit kids hard,” Pavia said. “During Omicron, 15% of all visits of children to the emergency department were due to COVID. This represented several million emergency department visits…Once Omicron hit, it was actually kids 6 months to 4 years old who had the highest hospitalization rates.”

The vaccine is formulated for small children, with Pfizer suggesting three doses to provide optimal protection, and Moderna recommending two, although the company said three would be better. Infants under 6 months don’t need a vaccine if their mothers were vaccinated during pregnancy. In that case, the antibodies pass to the baby, offering immunity for the first six months of life.

As with other COVID vaccines, side effects include soreness and redness at the injection site, possible swelling in the lymph nodes, fever and irritability. He said getting kids vaccinated for COVID can help slow the disease and keep small children safer.

“Talk it over with someone who really knows and that means your provider,” Pavia said. “Not a friend on Facebook, not a Reddit thread, and think it through because it’s important that you make that decision for yourself. However, if you compare it to other things we vaccinate our kids for, the vaccine is at least as safe, based on everything we know to date.”