Covid vaccines for children under 5 coming, but many parents have questions

This is the moment that many parents have been looking forward to for months: Children under the age of 5 are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine and are among the last Americans to qualify for the vaccine.

Without access to vaccines, parents of young children have been faced with an almost impossible choice since the start of the pandemic. Many children were kept away from school, family gatherings and other activities and deprived of normal childhood experiences. Now all this could change.

On Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children 6 months of age and older. The decision means these young children will be vaccinated for the first time, possibly as early as Tuesday.

Sunny Baker, 35, a mother of two from Oxford, Mississippi, said she got her eldest daughter, 5-year-old Hattie Ruth, vaccinated as soon as possible and is looking forward to her 2-year-old daughter, Alma Pearl, receiving the vaccine. qualify.

“Yes Yes Yes! We would like to be first in line,” she said.

But miss. Baker may well be in the minority: A recent Kaiser Health survey found that only one in five parents vaccinate their young children immediately. Many plan to abstain for the time being.

As the pandemic enters its third year and Americans are weighing the risks they are willing to live with, the CDC’s decision puts parents of young children in a difficult position.

Vaccines have lost some of their effectiveness against infection with new variants, although they still provide protection against severe illness and death. And huge numbers of Americans were infected during the Omicron surge, contributing to the mistaken belief of many that the battle was over.

Shift tips also contributed to the lack of enthusiasm. Daryl Richardson, 37, of Baltimore, said he had no plans to vaccinate his three children, in part because of constant changes in the recommended number of doses.

“First it was one shot, then a booster, and another booster,” he said.

After coping with the dangers of the pandemic with their children for so long, parents now face new questions, some so complex that even regulators and experts are baffled. What is the best vaccine? How well and how soon will they work? And why bother if most young children already exposed to the virus?

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are considered safe for young children, and both produce blood levels of protective antibodies similar to those seen in young adults. But none of them provide the miraculous protection provided by vaccines for adults in the early days of a pandemic.

The Moderna vaccine appears to elicit a strong immune response in young children and protection is complete within 42 days of the first dose. But the vaccine causes a fever in one in five children, and few suppliers are likely to offer it as an alternative to the Pfizer vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is more common and causes fewer fevers, but children will need three doses to protect themselves from the virus. While it takes 90 days to reach maximum protection, the effects may last longer compared to Moderna.

“The implementation of these two deployments will be an incredibly challenging task,” said Caitlin Jetelina, a public health expert and author of a widely read newsletter.Your local epidemiologist. ”

“There will be a lot of active talk about the difference between the two and the implications of taking one over the other,” she said.

A direct comparison of the two vaccines could provide some answers to parents, but this is neither possible nor practical, the experts said in an interview. There are too many differences in the way vaccines are developed and evaluated.

“In fact, it will be impossible to say that one is better than the other,” the doctor said. William Towner, who led vaccine trials for Moderna and Pfizer at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

The choice may depend more on whether parents are willing to go for three doses versus two, and what kind of vaccine their suppliers have, he said.

Many providers are not accustomed to Moderna as they have only relied on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine until now. Approximately 350 million doses of this vaccine have been manufactured. introduced to the Americans overall compared to 223 million doses of Moderna vaccine and approximately 19 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

For young children in the states while ordered 2.5 million doses of Pfizer and 1.3 million doses of Moderna. These numbers are lower than expected given the 18 million children in this age group.

Absorption was slow even for older children. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for children ages 5 to 11 in November, but less than 30 percent in this age group received two shots.

Overall, vaccines have proven to be very safe, but many parents remain hesitant for a variety of reasons. Some fear because the vaccines are relatively new, or because they consider the risk of Covid-19 to their children negligible.

Some parents may not be interested because their children have been among the 75 percent thought they were already infected. But vaccination provides more powerful and permanent protection, even if the child has already been infected, CDC scientists noted on Saturday.

Third parents left the pandemic.

In Middletown, Ohio, some parents were more worried about staying cool during the summer heat than they were about the risks of the coronavirus. Tori Johnson, 25, is unvaccinated and has said she has no plans to vaccinate her two daughters, Liliana, 7, and Rosalina, 9 months.

According to her, life has already returned to normal.

Simone Williams, 32, said she was hesitant to vaccinate her 1-year-old twins Kaidon and Arissa and 4-year-old Brian. “I’d get them for them if they needed it, but otherwise I’m in no hurry,” Williams said.

Some pediatricians were preparing to explain to parents the benefits of vaccination. Even routine immunization is a complex topic in many parts of the country.

Pediatricians “have been fighting this for years with the flu vaccine and standard doses for measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox,” the doctor said. Lindsey Douglas, pediatrician and medical director of quality and safety at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in Manhattan.

“Over the past two and a half years, information has certainly become much more,” says the doctor. Douglas added. “But there is a lot more misinformation as well.”

In some ways, the youngest children were more likely to be against the use of vaccines.

Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have shown impressive efficacy ratings in adults, far exceeding expectations, and raised hopes for a virus-free future.

But while vaccines were gradually being tested on young children, the virus quickly morphed, with each new form more elusive and complex than the last.

The newest versions of the Omicron variant have evolved to partially evade not only two-year-old vaccines, but even immunity induced by infection with the Omicron form that circulated just a few months ago.

Initial efficacy estimates in adults were in the order of 95 percent. That figure has now given way to 51% for two doses of Moderna vaccine in children aged 6 to 23 months, and just 37% for children aged 2 to 5 years.

As low as it seemed, two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine didn’t even meet the Food and Drug Administration’s threshold for immune response, justifying the agency’s decision in February to delay evaluation of the vaccine until the company had tested three doses.

“As a mom, I find it unacceptable that our babies take so long to vaccinate,” says the doctor. Jetelina said. But “as an epidemiologist, I also know the value of carefully conducting clinical trials and determining the correct dosage.”

Based on the data, the FDA this week approved two doses of Moderna and three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech as a “primary series” for young children.

If officials decide that even the youngest children need booster shots against future options, the children will need to get a third dose of Moderna and a fourth dose of Pfizer.

In press releases and data provided to federal regulators, Pfizer estimates that three doses of its vaccine are 80 percent effective. But that calculation was based on just three children in the vaccine group and seven who received a placebo, making it an unreliable figure, CDC advisers said at a meeting Friday.

“We should just assume that we don’t have efficacy data,” the doctor said. Sarah Long is an infectious disease expert at the Drexel University College of Medicine. But dr. Long said she was “reasonably comfortable” with other data supporting the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Parents of the youngest children may be more likely to opt for the Covid vaccine if it can be offered along with other routine vaccinations. Dr. Towner said any vaccine is better than none, but he predicted more parents might choose Moderna.

“Honestly, it can be a bit difficult for some parents to do three doses rather than two,” he added. “If they have a choice, and if both are available, it might sway some parents towards Modern.”

Some parents don’t need to be convinced. Erin Schmidt, 37, of Alexandria, Va., said the news “changed her life” because her family lives in “a sort of alternate isolated reality.” After getting her 2-year-old daughter Sophia vaccinated, she plans to crack open a bottle of champagne, take Sophia to a museum, and “blow her head with the world.”

Brendan Kenneally, 38, from Richfield, Minnesota, said that after his daughters, 4-year-old Hazel and 1-year-old Ivy, are vaccinated, he and his wife Jocelyn, 35, will take them to Lake City . Duluth, where they plan to visit new restaurants and attend an outdoor concert by local folk group Trampled by Turtles.

The family had to avoid spending time indoors with his mother, who has lupus and is vulnerable to severe Covid. His children missed the state fair, dropped out of swimming lessons, and dropped out of gymnastics.

“I was very, very happy a few times in the past, and then they pulled the rug again,” Mr. King said. Kenneally said that the FDA is stopping progress on vaccines for children.

“These glimmers of hope were so needlessly devastating,” he added. “Until we’re at Walgreens or wherever we take them to get their pokes and their Band-Aids, I’m trying to keep that at bay.”

Adam Bednar provided a report from Baltimore, Christina Kapechki from Richfield, Minnesota Kimiko de Freitas-Tamura from New York Ellen B. Meacham from Oxford, Mississippi, and Kevin Williams from Middletown, Ohio.