COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5 are finally here, but most parents aren’t jumping in line

Families with tiny children gathered at Children’s National Hospital’s research campus in Washington at 8 a.m. in a sparsely packed but humming auditorium, eager and relieved for COVID-19 immunization appointments for their children.

Small children and their parents sat alongside nurses, who given the injections in front of an audience of masked onlookers, mostly reporters and hospital employees, in red seats surrounded by sparkling red and white metallic balloons.

As the youngsters had their vaccinations, onlookers cooed and cheered, and each child was given a high-five, a sticker, and the opportunity to pet Barney and Sprout, two facility dogs specifically trained to help children relax during their recuperation.

At Children’s National Hospital’s research campus in Washington on June 21, Leo Simon, 2, hides his eyes as registered nurse Reisa Lancaster gives a dosage of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. Brittany Head, Leo’s mother, is holding him.
Following approval last week, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ruled that the advantages of immunization for children exceed the dangers, COVID-19 vaccinations were made accessible to children under the age of five for the first time on Tuesday.


One of the first parents to bring their kid for an injection was Sarah Schaffer DeRoo, a doctor at Children’s National. Hewitt, her 7-month-old baby, sat on his mother’s lap while receiving the shot in front of media and family.

Despite DeRoo’s eagerness to get her kid vaccinated, she has received a range of responses from parents.

“I know a number of parents who are overjoyed (and) will be among the first in line to get their children vaccinated… “However, there is a lot of skepticism about kid immunizations,” she noted. “As a result, I feel it my responsibility to try my best to demonstrate to them the vaccine’s advantages and hazards.”

On June 21, doctor Sarah Schaffer DeRoo carries her 7-month-old son, Hewitt, on her lap while she gets vaccinated at Children’s National Hospital’s research site near the Takoma district of Washington.
Except for kids less than 6 months old, who can benefit from their parents’ immunization during pregnancy, every other age group in America has long had access to vaccinations.

According to April survey data, 18 percent of parents said they would immediately vaccinate their young kid, while 27 percent said they would absolutely not and 38 percent said they would wait and see.

According to Grant Paulsen, an infectious disease pediatrician and lead researcher for the children under the age of 5 vaccine trials at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, some parents believe the vaccine trials conducted among young children were too small to satisfy their safety concerns.

Despite the fact that both vaccinations were tested on over 70,000 adults, just 5,000 children received at least one dose of the Moderna vaccine and 3,000 received the Pfizer vaccine. Although there were no evidence of safety issues in the clinical trials, health experts warned that, as with previous pediatric vaccinations, uncommon side effects might emerge when more children are immunized.

The two vaccinations were researched individually, therefore they can’t be directly compared.

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Because Moderna’s doses are spaced four weeks apart, a youngster might be entirely protected against infection and serious sickness by summertime. The vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech will be given in three doses, three weeks apart, followed by a third dosage eight weeks later.

Moderna may add a third dosage to its vaccination protocol for children under the age of five, according to health experts. When the firm will have data on the shot is unknown.

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Dr. William Towner, regional medical director for clinical trials at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, said, “Moderna is really exploring a third dosage to their vaccine as well.” “It’s six months after the second dosage in clinical studies,” says the researcher.

Parents have expressed anxiety about adding another injection to their child’s pediatric immunization regimen, according to specialists. To achieve reliable findings in the clinical trials, Paulsen added, children were not advised to obtain another vaccination within 14 to 30 days of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“There are undoubtedly other vaccinations that are given in numerous doses,” Towner explained. “At this time, we don’t know if this vaccination can be given in combination with other vaccines.”

Adults can receive COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time, according to the CDC, but the agency has yet to offer any recommendations for children under the age of two.

Officials from the firm told the FDA that those tests will take place in the following months.

Misinformation, in addition to unanswered questions, plays a modest role in vaccination apprehension among parents, according to health professionals who have spent nearly two years attempting to address it.

Paulsen added, “I receive queries regarding fertility and long-term adverse effects.” “There are less worries about vaccination conspiracies or monitors….” The majority of the time, parents have valid worries.”

Despite the fact that young children have been mostly spared the worst effects of COVID-19, they can become extremely ill, and more than 200 people have died as a result of infections, according to FDA data.

According to the FDA, half of the young children hospitalized with COVID-19 did not have any previous illnesses before becoming unwell.

Pediatricians are concerned that parents’ “wait and see” approach may mean that many children may not be vaccinated against COVID-19 in time for the autumn, when many experts expect another spike in cases.

On June 21, James Damon, 35, and Eunkyoung Kim, 34, took their two kids, Junsoo, 4, and Sooha, 1, to the Children’s National research campus to get vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer has been approved in the United States since October, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, just 36% of children aged 5 to 11 have gotten at least one dose as of June 8.

“Playing the timing game with young children in particular is a bit problematic, given that one of the vaccinations requires a three-dose series,” said Richard Besser, a physician and president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “I wouldn’t wait if you want your child to be totally safeguarded in the autumn.”

James Damon, 35, and Eunkyoung Kim, 34, took their children to Children’s National Hospital on Tuesday to get vaccinated. Before their kids, Junsoo, 4, and Sooha, 1, could be vaccinated, they, like many other parents, had taken extra precautions in enclosed areas with their sons, Junsoo, 4, and Sooha, 1.

“I’m pleased that they’ve been vaccinated,” says the mother “Damon, a Washington-based attorney, agreed. “Knowing that we’re all protected and that we’re also vaccinated to protect members of our neighborhood, family members, and friends feels like the epidemic is finished for me and my family.”

Karen Weintraub contributed to this article.

Adrianna Rodriguez may be found on Twitter as @AdriannaUSAT.

A grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation, and Competition in Healthcare has helped USA TODAY cover health and patient safety. The Masimo Foundation does not contribute to the editorial process.