COVID-19 Vaccine Now Approved for the Youngest Americans - What to Know

Americans ages 6 months and up are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, opening up eligibility for an additional 17 million people. Over the weekend, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially approved the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the vaccine for this age group. Just a few hours later, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on the EUA, setting the wheels in motion to allow medical care providers to begin administering the vaccine this week.

Here is what you need to know about this vaccine if you are a parent of children in this age group.

About the Vaccines

The CDC approval came one day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended the use of the vaccine for this age group. The decision encompassed both the Moderna and Pfizer versions of the vaccine. There are a few notable differences between the two vaccines.

The Moderna vaccine is administered as a two-dose primary series with each shot containing 25 micrograms. This vaccine is designed for children ages 6 months through 5 years. The CDC and FDA also gave the green light to a Moderna vaccine for children ages 6 through 11. These children receive two doses of 50 micrograms each. The two doses are to be given 28 days apart.

The Pfizer version of the vaccine comes in three doses with 3 micrograms in each shot for children ages 6 months through 4 years. The first two doses are administered three weeks apart with the last dose recommended at least two months following the second shot. A Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 has been available since last November.

Which Vaccine Should You Choose?

Both of the vaccines have been rigorously tested and shown to be safe and effective. While the three-dose Pfizer vaccine was shown to be slightly more effective at mitigating symptomatic infection in the early studies, both of the versions produce strong antibody levels. Some parents may choose the Moderna vaccine simply because it only requires two doses. However, other parents may choose to go with the Pfizer vaccine for its higher efficacy rates. Health experts recommend discussing the issue with your child's pediatrician so that you can make the best decision for your family.

What if My Child Has Already Had COVID-19?

According to the latest study from the CDC, approximately 75% of American children have already had COVID-19 by the end of last February. This means that this number is even higher now heading into the summer. However, medical professionals caution that immunity from the virus wanes over time, making it important to still seek out a vaccine even if your child has already been infected with the virus.

Furthermore, there is evidence that suggests that hybrid immunity offers the best level of protection against COVID-19. Hybrid immunity means that you are protected from a combination of natural immunity from the actual virus and a vaccination.

What if My Child is About to Turn 5?

Some parents may decide that they are better off waiting until their child turns five to seek the higher dosage of the vaccination. However, COVID-19 experts are advising to get the vaccination as soon as possible even if your child is going to turn five prior to the series completion. You can always get the higher dose once they turn five.

Vaccine Hesitancy High in This Age Group

Unfortunately, many parents are still hesitant about giving their children the vaccine. According to a survey last April by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 18% of parents of kids under the age of 5 said that they would seek out the vaccine as soon it was available. Of those surveyed, almost 40% said that they would wait and see before making the decision to vaccinate. Another 27% said that they would not get the vaccine with 11% saying they would only choose to vaccinate if it were required.

Understanding the science behind the vaccine will help you to feel confident in the decision that you make about this important immunization. As always, your healthcare provider is the best source of information and advice as you navigate this road.

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