The short answer: Hopefully, kids younger than 5 years old will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine this summer.
We know the news around the COVID-19 vaccine for kids can be confusing. Here’s a breakdown of what we know, what’s been announced and what’s to come.
Thankfully, many kids can currently be protected from COVID-19 with a vaccine, helping not only them, but also those around them. Continued study of the vaccines has shown that they are extremely safe and effective in preventing severe illness, and if infection does occur, the vaccinated person has such a low viral load that they have a much lower chance of spreading the disease. Additionally, especially in kids, serious side-effects of the vaccine have been extremely rare.
Kids 5 years old and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Now, vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are conducting clinical trials to determine the best way to vaccinate and protect kids younger than 5 years old.
Pfizer-BioNTech initially applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a vaccine for kids younger than 5 in January, but made the decision to delay that application and continue testing for a more effective dosage of the vaccine. This does not mean the vaccine is not safe for kids. Rather, they were trialing a two-dose option (just like those in the older age groups), but found that was less than 50 percent effective against COVID-19 in this younger age group. They went back to their trials and are now exploring a three-dose option that will hopefully be even more effective.
Most recently, Moderna applied for EUA of its COVID-19 vaccine for kids 6 months to 5 years old. This is a two-dose option that appears to be 37 to 51 percent effective in protecting against COVID-19 depending on the age of the child.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expecting to consider both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna applications in June.
Why are they waiting until June? Good question. A lot of steps need to be completed in order to have the vaccine approved and all of those steps can happen more quickly if they have all the necessary data from all of the manufacturers.
More than 5 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States since the start of 2022. While it’s true that kids typically experience less severe symptoms than adults, some children get very sick and require hospitalization or need to be placed on a ventilator to help them breathe. We also know that some children have developed a rare, but serious, inflammatory condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C as a result of COVID-19.
If you have a child 5 years of age or older, definitely get them vaccinated because that will help protect younger siblings and other family members who may be unable to get the vaccine.
Continue to have kids wash their hands often, watch their distance from others who you don’t know, and consider wearing a mask in public settings.
Every family has its own risk tolerance. If your family includes vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, decide on your risk tolerance for your entire family unit. Where you’re going, how many people will be there, how much time you’ll spend there, and the vaccination status of attendees are factors to take into consideration.
When kids younger than 5 are eligible for the vaccine, it’s important to vaccinate them for their protection, to help protect your family, and to help stop community spread. Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic and get back to the things we (and our kids) love.
We encourage you to speak with your child’s pediatrician if you have specific questions or concerns about your child or unique family situation.
For more information from Children’s Wisconsin about COVID-19, click here.