COVID Vaccines Available for Children Under 4 Years Old as the Start of School Year Nears

Photo by Haywood Galbreath 

Edward Henderson | California Black Media

As parents across California focus on purchasing new clothes, school supplies and technological aids for their children for the coming school year, public health officials and healthcare professionals are asking them to consider the COVID-19 vaccine a back-to-school essential.

In June, COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for children 6 months through 4 years. Consequently about 2.2 million children in California and nearly 20 million children in the United States less than 5 years of age are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Although data from the trials involving thousands of infants and toddlers over the age of 6 months show that the vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to prevent serious health issues for youth and their families, many parents are hesitant to have their young children vaccinated.

Pfizer vaccine trials enlisted roughly 4,500 infants and toddlers over the age of 6 months. They proved the vaccine effective against COVID-19 and showed a strong antibody response in children receiving the vaccine.

Moderna vaccine trials involved over 6,500 infants and toddlers over the age of 6 months. They also proved the vaccine effective against COVID-19 and showed a strong antibody response in children who received it.

Dr. Jennifer Miller, a pediatrician with East Bay Pediatrics, spoke about her experiences with parents in her practice regarding the vaccine during a virtual press conference hosted by The California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

“For those families that are hesitant and questioning, I try to understand what their fears and questions are. I try to remind them that we are in this together. I care about the health and wellbeing of their children, and I will always suggest the best possible course for them,” she said. “I let them know that ultimately it is their decision to make, and I am here as a resource. It is normal to be afraid of the unknown and to want to protect your child. With that in mind, vaccination is the best protection around.”

COVID-19 vaccines were only authorized for use in the US after three phases of clinical trials that show the vaccines are effective at protecting against the virus. For the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials with children under 5 years old, infants and toddlers of different ethnicities were enrolled to ensure that the vaccine is consistently effective. Once the trials were completed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined after rigorous analysis that the data meets their high standards of safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality.

Since the vaccines were authorized for emergency use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been using platforms like V-safe and VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) to monitor safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Children 3 and above are eligible to receive the vaccination at pharmacies, while children under 3 will need to see their pediatrician or small community clinics due to federal regulations. The state has purchased enough vaccines for every child in California with the first shipment of 500,000 doses arrived last month.

The Moderna vaccine for children under four is a two-dose vaccine like the dosage for adults, however there will be one month in between doses. The Pfizer vaccine is three doses. The first dose is followed by the second 21 days later and the final dose comes 60 days after that. The Moderna dose is 1/4 of an adult dose, and the Pfizer vaccine is 1/10 of the adult dose. Tests show the side effects of minor fever and pain at the injection site can be stronger for children who receive the Moderna vaccine.

Protecting everyone in the household is a top priority as the new school year approaches. For the first time since the pandemic, vaccines are available for the entire family. Age is no longer a factor. Data has also shown that the vaccine is effective for pregnant women and safe for their unborn children. Additional protections can also be given to them while they are still in the womb.

Dr. Sarah Takekawa, an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, is currently raising 3 children under 5. She spoke during the California Department of Public Health’s virtual press conference on concerns pregnant woman may have with the vaccine and its effect on children. Dr. Takekawa was fully vaccinated before conceiving her third child and received her booster while pregnant.

“I have seen first-hand what the COVID-19 infection can do to otherwise extremely healthy young women during their pregnancies. Watching firsthand adults otherwise healthy succumb to the disease, it seems easy to us to make this decision about wanting to get vaccinated and encouraging other parents to have their children vaccinated. But we also understand that it is a discussion that needs to be had.”

You can view the entire Department of Public Health’s digital press conference discussion here and learn more about the youth vaccine. You can also visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about safe and effective vaccines available for all Californians aged 6 months and older.

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