By Theo Bickel
Children 6 months old to 4 years old are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
Public health officials have evaluated the safety data and concluded that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are safe for young children and effective at reducing COVID-19-related serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in young children.
“This is a very exciting moment,” said Teresa Lee, a physician at International Community Health Services (ICHS). “Finally, families have a safe way to protect their children against the severe health risks of COVID-19.”
Parents of young children have been navigating the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic for over two years, forgoing normal daily activities to protect their children. And now, the authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for babies over 6 months and toddlers provides families greater freedom to participate in normal educational, social, and recreational activities.
“I have been eagerly waiting for the opportunity to get my 7-month-old daughter and 2-and-a-half year old son vaccinated to protect them against COVID,” said Lee. “Vaccinating my kids can also help to protect my other vulnerable family members that they visit, like their great grandparents.”
COVID-19 vaccines protect young children
COVID-19 vaccines remain the single-most important tool that we have to protect people against severe illness from COVID-19. However, some still think that COVID-19 cases for children are always mild.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation about children and vaccines,” said White House COVID response director Dr. Ashish Jha. Some have suggested that COVID is not a ‘big deal’ for kids. But the truth is we know kids can get sick from [COVID-19].”
According to the American Medical Association, since the beginning of the pandemic, among children in the U.S. aged 6 months to 4 years, there have been more than 2 million cases of COVID-19, more than 20,000 hospitalizations, and more than 200 deaths.
The CDC has reported that during the Omicron wave this past winter, children under 5 were hospitalized at five times the rate of previous pandemic peaks.
More than half of hospitalized children ages 6 months to four years had no underlying conditions. An acute COVID-19 infection is less life-threatening to children, although a significant number of children have died—over 1,000 in the U.S. alone. But a small number of children can develop a dangerous condition in which many of their organs become inflamed, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) or pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS), which can result in lasting organ damage if left untreated. Another concern is long-COVID. All of these conditions can be prevented with vaccinations.
Pediatricians and health providers are encouraging their patients with young children to consider their safety and wellbeing and have them vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Wearing masks and social distancing are often not possible for our youngest kids and babies,” said Lee. “Instead, having children vaccinated against COVID-19, like other diseases, is the best way to protect them.”
What parents can expect
The FDA has authorized both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. The ingredients are the same as the adult and young adult vaccines, but are administered in “kid-sized” doses.
The Moderna vaccine is administered as a two-dose series, with doses given four weeks apart.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is administered as a three-dose primary series, with the second dose given three weeks after the first dose, and the third dose given more than eight weeks after the second dose.
Like other vaccines, side effects are normally mild. The side effects most commonly reported are pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site, headache, fever, and fatigue. Symptoms usually occur one to two days after vaccination and are mostly mild and resolve after a few days.
COVID-19 vaccines are free and open to anyone regardless of insurance or immigration status.
ICHS offers COVID-19 vaccines for children six months to four years
ICHS patients may call (206) 788-3700 to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment with their care provider. Scheduled appointments are only available for ICHS patients.
For vaccine locations near you, text your zip code to the six digit 438-829 (GET VAX) run by the Washington Department of Health or call the hotline at 1-833-VAX-HELP (833-829-4357), then press #. Language assistance is available.
COVID-19 vaccines are free of charge, regardless of immigration or health insurance status. Please bring your picture ID and insurance card if you have health insurance.
ICHS will host a one-day pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinic for members of the community, ages 6 months to 4 years old, who are not ICHS patients to receive COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Visit ichs.com for more details.