What parents need to know about Covid vaccines for children under 5

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering Moderna’s application for emergency use authorization of its vaccine for this youngest age group and will also consider Pfizer’s application soon.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases are increasing across the country, driven by the highly contagious subvariant of Omicron known as BA.2.12.1, according to new data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United States.

What should parents and caregivers know about the data so far from Pfizer and Moderna? How long does it take for young children to get vaccinated? And what can parents and caregivers do while waiting to reduce the risk of infection for their family?

To help answer these questions, I spoke with Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also the author of “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health” and a mother of two young children.

CNN: Many parents were anxiously awaiting the news of the vaccine for children under 5. Are you optimistic based on what you’ve seen so far in Pfizer studies?

Dr. Leana Wen: Yes. To recap, Pfizer initially tested two injections of the 3 microgram dose in this youngest age group (6 months to 5 years). This dose is one-tenth the dose for adults (30 micrograms) and less than one-third the dose for children 5 to 11 years (10 micrograms).

Two injections of this lower dose were safe, according to early studies, but they did not produce enough of an immune response. That’s why Pfizer began testing a three-dose version of the vaccine, as other age groups needed at least three doses to boost protection. In fact, the FDA has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for everyone 5 years of age and older, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended this treatment.
Pfizer has just announced the first data from a study of nearly 1,700 children who received a third dose during the period when the Omicron variant was dominant. Antibody levels measured one month after the third dose were similar to the response seen in young adults 16-25 years old.

The company also reported that the vaccine was more than 80% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 in children 6 months to 5 years old. However, these figures are considered as intermediate results and not yet definitive.

Overall, I find these results promising. I look forward to seeing the final trial results and Pfizer submitting its data for FDA regulatory review.

CNN: How do Pfizer’s results compare to Moderna’s?

Magnifying glass: It’s hard to compare them head-to-head, so let me explain what Moderna’s results showed. Moderna tested a two-dose version of its vaccine. This dose was 25 micrograms, which is a quarter of the dose of its adult version (100 micrograms). The researchers found that the vaccine’s effectiveness for children 6 months to 5 years old was similar to the effectiveness in older age groups: specifically, that the vaccine is 51% effective in preventing infection symptomatic in children aged 6 months to less than 2 years and 37 years. % effective in preventing symptoms in children 2-5 years old.

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Moderna’s studies also found, similar to what Pfizer had announced, that its vaccine produced a robust antibody response in young children, similar to that in older people. The research team also found the vaccine to be safe.

I am optimistic about these results. Moderna’s results have already been submitted to the FDA, and the agency is currently reviewing that data.

CNN: What’s the timeline at this point? When can parents expect to have their children vaccinated?

Magnifying glass: The FDA just announced a meeting of its external advisory committee on June 15. Agency officials said they would discuss Moderna’s and Pfizer’s applications for young children that day.

Depending on the outcome of the meetings, if the advisers recommend authorization of the vaccines, the FDA could issue an emergency use authorization immediately after it is convened, and the CDC could meet and issue its recommendation soon after. With this type of schedule, parents may begin to vaccinate their young children as early as the week of June 20. If both vaccines are licensed, then parents will have the choice of having their children vaccinated with the three-dose Pfizer vaccine or the two-dose Moderna vaccine.

CNN: Do you still know what vaccine you would give your children?

Magnifying glass: Either vaccine, if authorized and when authorized, is available first. I trust the very thorough regulatory process and believe that both of these vaccines, if cleared by the FDA and recommended by the CDC, will be safe and effective. I can’t wait to give my grandkids, ages 2 and 4, the great protection that everyone 5+ is entitled to right now.

CNN: With the rise in Covid-19 cases, what can parents do in the meantime to protect their unvaccinated young children?

Magnifying glass: Parents need to decide how important it is for them to continue to avoid the coronavirus. Some may decide this is less important, especially if the whole family has recently been infected with Covid-19. Others may decide it’s crucial, for example, if a child is immunocompromised.

There are many methods that can help reduce the risk. Outdoor gatherings are always much safer than indoor gatherings. Consider hosting games, birthday parties, and other get-togethers outdoors rather than indoors. If you’re hosting an indoor event, consider asking everyone to do a quick home test before you arrive. Masking in indoor public spaces can also reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

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