The federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control have both approved Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine regiments for children under 5 years of age. Shots are expected to become available this week.
Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Medical Center and a professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said that with nearly 600 million vaccine doses given to older children and adults in the U.S. since December 2020, the country has a strong track record.
“We have a lot of information about these vaccines. The clinical trials that were conducted that led to the approvals also show that these vaccines are safe and effective,” he said. “So, I’m very, very comfortable and confident that we should forge ahead and start immunizing our youngest children.”
But Kahn says in his experience, he’s still seeing that many parents with children 5 and older take a wait-and-see approach to get vaccinated. One concern has been the issue of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart.
“But the three things to note about this myocarditis side effect is, one, it’s very rare. About two individuals out of 100,000 get myocarditis – though it seems to be highest in young men; they’re about nine per 100,000,” Kahn said. “Number two, it’s very mild. For the most part, the vast majority of people who get myocarditis from the vaccines, it’s mild, requires no medical intervention. The third thing, and most importantly, is that your risk of getting myocarditis is far greater if you get COVID than if you get the vaccine.”
Kahn says during the omicron surge this past winter, hospitals saw a peak of children being hospitalized with COVID. Half of those children didn’t have underlying health conditions, says Kahn.
“This thought that, you know, that it’s only sick kids or kids with underlying medical problems get bad COVID is simply not true,” Kahn said.
Kahn said that as we have moved forward through the pandemic, many people who had been resistant to immunizing their children have seen other family members or friends immunize children without issue, easing their concerns. For those who are still resistant, he stressed the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
“Young children can and do get sick with with COVID. One thing that we learned about with Omicron is that a new variant can emerge very rapidly. And if you don’t immunize your children and a new variant emerges, then you’re really behind the eight ball,” he said.