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When can children get the COVID-19 vaccine – and what do parents need to know now?

Pfizer said Monday that its two-dose COVID vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it plans to seek regulatory approval as soon as possible.

If the regulatory exam goes smoothly, young children could start to roll up their sleeves quite quickly. What does this mean for parents and children right now? And what, if anything, should they do to prepare? Here’s what you need to know.

Vaccines should be available in a month or two

Again, Pfizer has indicated that it will ask the Food and Drug Administration to use the vaccine in young children “urgently.” But there is no set timeline for how long this review process will take.

So, despite media reports claiming with some certainty that children could be largely immune by Halloween, experts say it is still not clear when the emergency use authorization will be issued. And it is not exactly the same in children and adults. The dose of Pfizer vaccine is 30 micrograms for ages 12 and over; the dose for children 5 to 11 years old is much lower: 10 micrograms.

“Even though there are people saying when it will be available, we just don’t know,” said Dr. Janet Englund, director of the Seattle Children’s Pediatric Infectious Disease Research Group. “It’s the FDA and ACIP [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] who decides. Even if things are looking really good, it will take weeks or months. “

The most precise hypothesis that Englund would risk? “I have no doubts that we will have widespread immunization for children in 2021,” she said.

Deployment should NOT be as rocky as it was with adults

The initial deployment of the COVID vaccine to adults in the United States was not particularly well coordinated, but experts predict the process will go much easier when it is time to vaccinate young children.

On the one hand, there just aren’t that many. Children make up only about 20% of the United States’ population, and children ages 5 to 11 are an even smaller group.

“I don’t foresee as much concern about getting appointments, just because we don’t have as many humans trying to vaccinate at the same time as we had before,” said Dr Mundeep Kainth. , Cohen’s pediatric infectious disease specialist. Children’s Medical Center in New York. “We’re better and more efficient too. “

Like adults and adolescents, children are likely to be vaccinated at pharmacies and community vaccination sites, including schools. The Biden administration also announced plans to provide the vaccine to more primary care physicians, including pediatricians. It is therefore possible that children can be vaccinated with their doctor.

“The hope is that children can be vaccinated in private care offices,” Englund said, but that depends on the vaccine formulation and the storage and handling requirements.

“Pediatricians will be ready,” said Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, professor in the departments of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, who mentioned a recent conversation she had with a fellow pediatrician who helps him plan his hospital. go out. “They are already wondering if they can have clinics behind the wheel, how they can increase appointments, how they can be available for children to be vaccinated.”

Get your child vaccinated against the flu now

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is absolutely safe for those 12 and older to receive a flu shot and a COVID vaccine (either an initial dose or a booster) at the same time.

Because federal regulators have yet to review the data and make recommendations, it’s too early to say whether the same will be true for young children, although experts hope it will. Yet that is just one more reason to get your child vaccinated against the flu now. Each year, the CDC urges everyone to get their flu shot by the end of October, if possible.

“Get your flu shot now. We are really concerned about the flu this year, ”Englund said. Flu rates last year were unusually low, likely due to COVID-related preventative measures, and rates this year are expected to be higher.

Also make sure your child is up to date with other vaccines, like MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), she urged. Children usually receive a second dose between 4 and 6 years old. So you could have, say, a 6 year old who needs to get that second dose of MMR, who needs their annual flu shot, and who is eligible for a COVID soon-to-be vaccine.

“Now is the time to check out these other vaccines,” Englund said.

Ask your pediatrician your questions as soon as possible

If you have any questions about the vaccine trial, what the vaccination process will look like, or specific concerns related to your child’s health, now is the time to contact your child’s pediatrician or health care provider and start a conversation.

“I know a lot of parents have questions so I encourage them to ask their questions now because once it’s approved you don’t want to have to delay. We’ve waited long enough, ”Kainth said. While it’s certainly not as detailed as a published study would be, she also urged parents to check out Pfizer’s press release to learn more about the scope and results of the trial.

“If you have any concerns, hesitations, or just the old type of ‘I want to understand better’ questions, now is the time to reach out,” Kainth said.

Results may be available for children under 5 later this year

Pfizer has announced that two more age cohorts from the trial – children 2 to 5 years old and children 6 months to 2 years old are expected as early as the fourth quarter of this year. Researchers are testing a lower dose of both injections than those given to children aged 5 to 11.

Talk to your kids about what’s going on and keep hiding yourself

Throughout the pandemic, experts have emphasized how important it is to talk to children (in a developmentally appropriate way) about what’s going on, and this time is no different. Ask them what they think they know about the COVID vaccine and be open to all their questions. Also be positive about this development, urged Englund.

“We adults should be positive for our children and let them know: this is a good thing,” she said.

At the same time, with the circulation of the delta variant and cases in children reaching new heights, it is important to continue to wear masks, avoid crowded indoor environments when possible, and wash your hands. . Also, make sure that all eligible household members have been immunized, which can help “cocoon” unvaccinated children while they wait for their turn. Childhood COVID cases have increased by about 240% since July.

“Right now, it’s time to double down on all of these other safeguards,” Rasmussen said. “Anything you can do now, because we’re so close to this chance to be vaccine protected. “

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but directions may change as scientists find out more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.

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