Monday, October 3, 2022

Finally, COVID-19 shots for toddlers – 5 essential readings

For many parents of children under the age of 5, a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine could not come soon enough. A full year and a half after shots became available to adults for the first time, their wait is almost over.

On June 17, 2022, the Food and Drug Administration approved both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Modern COVID-19 injections for the nearly 20 million American children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years. The widely awaited decision follows a unanimous recommendation in favor of the shots by the FDA’s independent advisory panel.

The remaining critical step is for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sign off on the shots, which are expected to take place within days.

The following collection of articles from The Conversation’s archives follows the tortuous path of developing COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest children, from the early days of clinical trials to the practical challenges of how to help children overcome their fears and anxieties. overcome to get a shot.

1. ‘Children are not just small adults’

While the delta variant raged across the country in the summer of 2021, parents of children under the age of 12 anxiously awaited the availability of a safe and effective COVID-19 shot for that age group. The FDA’s authorization for ages 5 to 11 finally came in October 2021. But it still kept preschoolers and younger children waiting for their own version of the vaccine.

In July 2021, Judy Martin, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences, helped draw back the curtain for our readers on the often mysterious and slow clinical research studies that must take place before vaccines are approved for children. Martin explained how the developing brains, bodies, and immune systems of infants and young children differ from those of older children, and how these are taken into account during vaccine development, clinical trials, and safety assessment.



Read more: Children are not just smaller adults – that’s why they need their own clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine


2. So you get a shot, what then?

The COVID-19 pandemic has in many cases changed obscure biological terms such as mRNA, peak proteins and “decreasing antibodies” into household words. But for all the talk of vaccines and immunology, few people have a deep understanding of exactly what happens once a vaccine is injected into the body.

One curious 12-year-old posed that very question to The Conversation: “How does a COVID-19 vaccine work in the body?” So we asked Glenn J. Rapsinski, an expert in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences, to address that question for our Curious Kids series – at a level that young children and adults can appreciate.

When the body encounters the molecules in a COVID-19 vaccine – which mimics the SARS-CoV-2 virus – it activates a complex and coordinated set of cells and processes. It’s a lot like an extended construction zone. Some of these cells warn the body against the intruder and recruit helpers, and mark the intruder with signals similar to “flashing neon yellow signs.”

“Since all these important processes are taking place inside your body, you can see some physical signs that there is a fight going on under the skin,” Rapsinski explained. “If your arm hurts after you get the shot, it’s because immune cells like the dendritic cells, T cells and B cells rush to the arm to inspect the threat.”



Read more: What happens when COVID-19 vaccines enter the body – a roadmap for children and adults


A schematic diagram demonstrating the roles of B cells and T cells in the immune response.
When the body encounters a perceived threat, such as an actual SARS-CoV-2 virus or a vaccine that mimics it, B cells and T cells act together with a sophisticated chorus of other cells.
VectorMine / iStock via Getty Images Plus

3. Training of the immune system

As clinical trials of COVID-19 shots for children under the age of 5 crept up early in 2022, the omicron variant gained a firm foothold in the U.S. While severe cases of COVID-19 remain relatively rare in children, hospitalizations in children under 5 increased dramatically due to to the increased transmissibility of omicron, emphasizing the urgent need for a safe vaccine in that age group.

Debbie-Ann Shirley, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases at the University of Virginia, wrote in March 2022 about the arduous process of conducting clinical trials sequentially for each declining age group.

“Several factors determine how our bodies respond to vaccines, and one of these variables is age,” Shirley explained. “Testing according to age groups helps to account for these differences in how the maturing immune system reacts to different types of vaccines. It is common for childhood vaccines to be given in series to help train the young immune response to respond better and stronger antibodies with each subsequent dose. ”



Read more: COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest children may come closer to authorization – a pediatrician explains how they are tested


4. The inevitable booster shot question

In the fall of 2021, an increasing amount of data from adults and adolescents found that immunity to COVID-19 vaccines and infections declined over time, suggesting that reinforcement shots would be needed – especially in light of omicron. The same trends were true for the age group 5 to 11, although vaccination still offers strong protection against severe COVID-19 leading to hospitalization. So in May 2022, the CDC recommended a booster dose for 5- to 11-year-olds.

COVID-19 shots for babies and preschoolers are expected to follow a similar trajectory; Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots for children under the age of 5 are intended to be a series of three doses. Moderna’s testing of the third dose is still ongoing. In May 2022, Shirley provided a snapshot of those studies and explained how researchers determined that the third shots were safe and effective.



Read more: How important is the COVID-19 booster shot for 5- to 11-year-olds? 5 questions answered


5. Help children overcome fear of gunfire

While the wait for COVID-19 vaccines for young children has undoubtedly been exhausting for some parents, it may also be their conversations with children who have severe anxiety about getting a shot. Lynn Gardner, an associate professor of pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine and a primary care pediatrician, has helped thousands of parents and their children deal with the very real fears that may arise in the doctor’s office.

Gardner wrote about what she calls the “Three P’s” – preparation, closeness and praise – that parents and caregivers can use to reduce their children’s anxiety around shots and help them have a more positive experience.

“It’s essential that you ask your child how they feel about receiving a shot,” she explained. “Giving them the opportunity to express their feelings can reduce the amount of stress and anxiety they feel about it. Confirm their feelings by telling them you know that needles can be a little scary, but then reassure them that they can handle them. Explain why they receive vaccines and emphasize that it is for their overall benefit. ”



Read more: Children scared to get shots? Here are 3 easy ways for parents to help them


Editor’s note: This story is a summary of articles from The Conversation’s archives.

Nation World News Desk
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