Last November marked significant progress when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval for children ages 5 through 11 to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
More headway was made last week toward the ongoing fight against COVID-19, with the FDA’s approval and CDC’s endorsement to move forward with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children under 5.
“COVID hospitalizations are on the rise again at a level that has not been seen since February,” said Michelle Pastorello, M.D., pediatric hospitalist and practice medical director at Pediatrix® Hospitalists of Nevada and specialty medical officer at Pediatrix Medical Group. “Those under 5 years old represent the last group of individuals to be eligible for vaccination. We know that vaccination is the best prevention for hospitalization due to COVID. Vaccination in these children will protect them from serious COVID infection and hospitalizations, particularly those with underlying illnesses. The vaccines will help keep these children safe in childcare and allow families to continue participating in group activities.”
Earlier this month, government officials announced that an initial 5 million doses of the vaccine were available (2.5 million from each pharmaceutical/biotech company) and gave pharmacies the go-ahead to place orders. They have wasted no time, placing orders for 1.45 million Pfizer doses and 850,000 Moderna doses right out of the gate.
Vaccine regimen and dosing
While Pfizer and Moderna have different dosing and regimen methods for administering COVID-19 vaccinations, they are expected to yield the same results and effectiveness.
Pfizer’s dose for the under 5 group contains a tenth of the amount in adult doses. Children 6 months to 4 years will receive the vaccine in a three-dose series.
Moderna, on the other hand, will give two separate doses to the same age group, each dose equaling one-quarter of the amount given to adults.
Parents’ response to the under 5 COVID vaccines
Until now, children under 5 remained the only group that didn’t have access to the vaccine. According to the Associated Press, this opens the door for another 20 million Americans to become vaccinated.
The only caveat is that a recent survey found that only one in five parents (18%) intend to get their children vaccinated immediately. Many parents, 38%, will take the wait-and-see approach to determine how others in the same age group respond to the vaccine before considering it for their children.
The survey found steadfast reluctance among 27% of parents who said they would “definitely not” vaccinate their children against COVID-19. Another 11% will only do so if schools and childcare facilities mandate it.
“Vaccines have long been very effective in protecting children and adults from infectious diseases,” said Dr. Pastorello. “The FDA and CDC have rigorous, well-proven standards for approving and monitoring vaccine safety. Vaccine protection in all ages decreases transmission and severe illness in all populations.”
Under 5 COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths
In the United States, more than 30,000 kids under age 5 have been hospitalized. Moreover, in the same age group, almost 500 deaths have occurred resulting from the virus.
While the numbers are low compared to older age groups, more than 1 million Americans have reportedly lost their lives to COVID-19, of the more than 85.9 million reported cases as of June 17, 2022.
The seven-day period between June 1 and June 7 produced 762,239 new cases. According to the CDC, the current daily average of new cases is 102,750, signifying that the virus continues surging through the country.
“The pandemic isn't over yet,” said Dr. Pastorello. “The more of the population that is vaccinated, the fewer hospitalizations and deaths will occur. The approval to vaccinate those under 5 years will bring us that much closer to getting a handle on this deadly virus.”
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