What to know about children under 5 getting COVID vaccines

Federal regulators are moving toward authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for young children, which means little Californians could start rolling up their sleeves early next week.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared Friday to offer the vaccines to children under age 5 — the last major age group not yet eligible for vaccination.

The case is now in the hands of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which could give their blessing as early as this weekend.

“Many parents, caregivers and clinicians have been waiting for a vaccine for young children, and this action will help protect those up to 6 months old,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in a statement. .

“As we have seen with older age groups, we expect vaccines for young children to provide protection against the most severe consequences of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death. .”

Already, California health officials are positioning themselves to start distributing doses as soon as possible.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is changing?

The FDA emergency use authorization would allow children as young as 6 months old to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

Pfizer-BioNTech is already available for those who are at least 5 years old. Moderna has, until now, been an adult-only vaccine.

What is the vaccination process?

The Moderna vaccine would be given in two doses for younger children, with the shots given a month apart. Each shot is a quarter of the typical adult dose.

Three injections of Pfizer – each representing a tenth of the dose given to adults – are necessary for the youngest children.

The first two should be given three weeks apart, with the third following at least eight weeks later, according to the FDA.

When will the photos be available?

CDC vaccine advisers will discuss expanding access to pediatric vaccines on Friday and Saturday and are expected to vote on the issue on Saturday.

After that, CDC officials will decide whether to formally recommend them.

The Western States Science Safety Review Task Force — a coalition of public health experts from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — will also conduct its own review.

In a statement, the California Department of Public Health said it will “await further action from the CDC and western states before making changes to vaccine delivery.”

But if all goes as planned, health officials say they expect to begin this next phase of the vaccination campaign within days.

Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County, said she expects those vaccines to be available as soon as Tuesday.

How many doses will there be?

California has already placed orders for pediatric formulations from Pfizer and Moderna and expects to receive an initial shipment of 243,000 doses “by early next week,” the California Department of Public Health wrote this week. the state in response to a Times investigation.

“We are working closely with local state health departments, childhood vaccine providers, and other pediatric service providers such as those in health systems to distribute and administer the COVID-19 infant vaccine/ toddlers as quickly as possible,” the statement continues.

Where can I make an appointment?

Officials say vaccines for younger children will be available in various locations.

More information about venues and appointment openings will be available through the state’s online platform, MyTurn.ca.gov.

The California Department of Public Health said it will “monitor wait times for appointments on MyTurn.ca.gov and work with our local partner agencies to gauge demand for vaccinations in this age group. and how well the system responds to demand”.

LA County “will have over 900 locations ready to begin administering vaccines to our youngest residents,” and “most of those will begin early next week,” according to Ferrer.

“This would include nearly 180 healthcare facilities, over 200 pharmacies and over 500 mobile sites and our seven [Department of Public Health] sites,” she told reporters on Thursday.

But, she added, “because some pharmacy sites are only allowed to vaccinate children 3 years and older, parents are encouraged to contact ahead to check times and availability.”

More information will also be available at VaccinateLACounty.com.

Should I consider having my young child vaccinated?

Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 has generally not hit young children as hard as other age groups. But officials and experts say children are not immune to the potentially devastating health effects that vaccinations could help thwart.

According to a report released by the CDC in March, weekly COVID-19 hospitalization rates among children age 4 and younger were five times higher during the peak of Omicron’s first surge that hit the fall and winter compared to the Delta wave of last summer.

Another study released by the CDC in April said hospitalization rates for COVID-19 among 5- to 11-year-olds were twice as high among unvaccinated children as among those who were vaccinated.

Many older California children and teens have already been vaccinated.

According to data compiled by The Times, 67% of people aged 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated.

However, the same is true for only 35% of 5-11 year olds.

In authorizing injections for young children, the FDA “has determined that the known and potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks in pediatric populations authorized for use for each vaccine. “, according to a statement from the agency.

“Child caretakers can be confident in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency has been thorough in its assessment of the data,” Califf said.

Los Angeles Times

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