NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – US health advisers on Saturday recommended COVID-19 vaccines for babies, toddlers and preschoolers – the last group without the shots.
The advisers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have unanimously decided that coronavirus vaccines should be made available to children as young as 6 months, providing protection against hospitalizations, deaths and possible long-term complications that are not yet clearly understood. .
“We have taken a big step forward today,” says Dr. Oliver Brooks, one of the members of the advisory panel.
The final signing is later the day of CDC director dr. Rochelle Walensky expects. While the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines, it is the CDC that decides who should get them.
The government prepared for the start of the shots early next week, with millions of doses ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics across the country. About 18 million children will be eligible.
Many families have been anxious for officials to approve vaccines for young children, saying they have long avoided bringing their children to birthday parties and other gatherings because they have not been vaccinated.
“Parents will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that these vaccines will be available soon,” said Dr. Jack Resneck, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement.
It remains to be seen how much the vaccines will eventually get. Less than a third of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have done so since vaccination was opened to them last November.
Here are some things to know:
WHAT KINDS ARE AVAILABLE?
Two brands – Pfizer and Moderna – received the green light from the FDA on Friday and from the advisory panel on Saturday. The vaccines use the same technology, but are offered at different dose sizes and number of injections for the youngest children.
Pfizer’s vaccine is for 6 months to 4 years. The dose is one tenth of the adult dose, and three shots are needed. The first two are given three weeks apart, and the last at least two months later.
Moderna was given two shots, each a quarter of its adult dose, approximately four weeks apart for children 6 months to 5. The FDA also approved a third dose, at least one month after the second shot, for children with immune conditions which makes them more vulnerable to serious diseases.
In studies, vaccinated adolescents have developed levels of virus-fighting antibodies that are as strong as young adults, suggesting that the doses of pups protect against coronavirus infections.
However, it is difficult to determine exactly how well they work, especially when it comes to the Pfizer vaccine.
Two doses of Moderna were apparently only about 40% effective in preventing milder infections at a time when the omicron variant caused most COVID-19 diseases. Pfizer provided study information indicating that the company saw 80% with its three shots. But the Pfizer data was so limited – and based on such a small number of cases – that experts and federal officials say they do not feel there is another reliable estimate.
SHOULD MY BECOME BECOME SMALL?
Yes, according to the CDC’s advisers. While COVID-19 was the most dangerous for older adults, younger people, including children, can also become very ill.
Hospitalizations increased during the omicron wave. Since the onset of the pandemic, about 480 children under the age of 5 are counted among the country’s more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, federal data show.
“It is worth vaccinating, even though the number of deaths is relatively rare, because these deaths can be prevented by vaccination,” says Dr. Matthew Daley, an Emperor Permanent Colorado researcher who sits on the advisory committee.
WHAT VACCINE SHOULD MY CHILD GET?
Or one, says Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccine chief.
“What vaccine does your healthcare provider, pediatrician, have? That’s what I’ll give my child,” Marks said Friday.
The doses have not been tested against each other, so experts say there is no way to say if one is better.
One consideration: It takes about three months to complete the Pfizer three-shot series, but only one month for Moderna’s two shots. So families eager to protect children quickly may want Moderna.
WHO GIVES THE SHOTS?
Pediatricians, other primary care physicians and pediatric hospitals plan to provide the vaccines. Limited drugstores will offer this to at least some of the under-5 group.
U.S. officials expect most shots to be fired at pediatricians’ offices. Many parents may be more comfortable getting the vaccine for their children from their regular doctor, Dr. Ashish Jha, Covid-19 coordinator of the White House, said. He predicted that the rate of vaccination would be much slower than it was for older populations.
“We are going to see vaccinations increase over weeks and even possibly over a few months,” Jha said.
CAN CHILDREN GET ANOTHER SINGLE AT THE SAME TIME?
It is common for young children to receive more than one vaccine during a doctor’s visit.
In studies of the Moderna and Pfizer injections in infants and toddlers, other vaccinations were not given at the same time, so there are no data on possible side effects when they occur.
But problems were not identified in older children or adults when COVID-19 shots and other vaccinations were given together, and the CDC recommends that it be safe for younger children as well.
WHAT IF MY CHILD RECENTLY HAS COVID-19?
About three-quarters of children of all ages are estimated to be infected at some point. For older ages, the CDC in any case recommended vaccination to lower the chances of re-infection.
Experts have noted re-infections among previously infected people and say the highest levels of protection occur in those who have been both vaccinated and previously infected.
The CDC said people might consider waiting about three months for an infection to be vaccinated.
Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller in Washington contributed.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.