Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for young children
Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for young children

Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for young children

COVID-19 vaccinations for the youngest children may just be one step closer. Moderna intends to seek U.S. permission for child-sized shots and publish early study results Wednesday that suggest the two small doses work in children under 6 years of age. Within a few weeks, competitor Pfizer will hope to learn if three of its even lower dose shots do too. Here’s what’s known so far and what’s next before the country’s 18 million children under 5 can be eligible for vaccination. MODERN RESULTS Moderna says that children as young as 6 months of age developed high levels of antiviral antibodies from shots that contained a quarter of the dose given to adults. Complete study results are still lacking, but the early results suggest that the vaccine can protect against serious illness in children just as it does in adults. A complication: The modern study was performed during the omicron rise, and none of the COVID-19 vaccines protect as well against infection with the super-infectious mutant – at any age – as they do against previous variants. There were no serious diseases in the pediatric study. But quite rightly, the vaccine proved to be just under 44% effective in preventing milder infections in children up to 2 years of age and almost 38% effective in preschool children. PFIZER’S STUDY The vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is currently the only one available for children in the United States. Adults 12 and older are given adult strength shots, and 5- to 11-year-olds receive a third of this dose. Pfizer tests even smaller shots, one-tenth of the adult dose, for children under 5 years of age. Early results showed two shots produced enough antibodies to protect babies and toddlers, but fell short for preschoolers. Children’s immature immune system often requires multiple doses of vaccines to properly protect against other diseases. So instead of testing a higher dose, Pfizer gave the kids a third shot. Results are expected in early April. WHAT’S NEXT? Once the Food and Drug Administration has an application from one or both companies, it is expected to publicly discuss the evidence with its scientific advisors. If the FDA approves shots for the youngest children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will then call in its own experts before recommending whether all teens need them – or only those at higher risk for COVID-19. While cases are falling for now in the US, other countries are experiencing increases. A break could be “the best time to get immunized, because then you will be protected when the next wave starts,” said Dr. Bill Muller from Northwestern University, researcher for Modern’s pediatric studies. WHY DO CHILDREN NEED A VACCINE? While COVID-19 is generally not as dangerous in adolescents as adults, some become seriously ill or even die. About 400 children younger than 5 have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the CDC. The Omicron variant hit children particularly hard, with those under the age of 5 hospitalized at higher rates than at the peak of the previous delta increase, the CDC found. About 57% of these aged 12 to 17 have received two doses of Pfizer so far, and 27% of these 5 to 11. WHAT ABOUT MODERN SHOTS FOR OLDER CHILDREN? The FDA restricts Moderna’s vaccine to adults, although it is used in children as young as 6 years of age in certain other countries. The FDA is investigating a very rare side effect – heart inflammation – that sometimes occurs in teens and young adults, mostly men. Moderna provides the FDA with updated safety information, which it says supports adult-sized doses for 12- to 17-year-olds, and is also seeking permission to use half of that dose for 6- to 11-year-olds. Regulators are expected to consider all three age groups at once .____ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

COVID-19 vaccinations for the youngest children may just be one step closer.

Moderna intends to seek U.S. permission for child-sized shots and publishes early study results Wednesday that suggest the two small doses work in children under 6 years of age. Within a few weeks, rival Pfizer hopes to find out if three of its even lower-dose shots do, too. .

Here’s what’s known so far and what’s next before the country’s 18 million children under 5 can be eligible for vaccination.

MOTHER RESULTS

Moderna says children as young as 6 months developed high levels of antiviral antibodies from shots that contained a quarter of the dose given to adults. Complete study results have not yet been obtained, but early results suggest that the vaccine may protect against serious illness in children just as it does in adults.

A complication: The modern study was performed during the omicron rise, and none of the COVID-19 vaccines protect as well against infection with the super-infectious mutant – regardless of age – as they do against previous variants.

There were no serious diseases in the pediatric study. But quite rightly, the vaccine proved to be just under 44% effective in preventing milder infections in children up to 2 years of age and almost 38% effective in preschool children.

PFIZERS STUDY

The vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, is the only one currently available to children in the United States. Those 12 years and older get shots in adult strength, and 5- to 11-year-olds get a third of that dose.

Pfizer tests even smaller shots, one-tenth of the adult dose, for children under 5 years of age. Early results showed that two shots produced enough antibodies to protect babies and toddlers, but fell short for preschoolers.

Children’s immature immune system often requires multiple doses of vaccines to properly protect against other diseases. So instead of testing a higher dose, Pfizer gave the kids a third shot. Results are expected in early April.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Once the Food and Drug Administration has an application from one or both companies, it is expected to discuss the evidence publicly with its scientific advisors. If the FDA approves shots for the youngest children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will then call in its own experts before recommending whether all teens need them – or only those at higher risk for COVID-19.

While cases are falling for now in the US, other countries are experiencing increases. A break could be “the best time to get immunized, because then you will be protected when the next wave starts,” said Dr. Bill Muller of Northwestern University, a researcher in Modern’s Pediatric Studies.

WHY DO CHILDREN NEED A VACCINE?

While COVID-19 is generally not as dangerous in adolescents as adults, some become seriously ill or even die. About 400 children younger than 5 have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the CDC. The Omicron variant hit children particularly hard, where they were admitted under 5 years of age at higher rates than at the peak of the previous delta increase, the CDC found.

About 57% of 12-17-year-olds have received two doses of Pfizer so far, and 27% of 5-11-year-olds.

WHAT ABOUT MODERNA SHOTS FOR OLDER CHILDREN?

The FDA restricts Moderna’s vaccine to adults, although it is used in children as young as 6 years of age in certain other countries. The FDA is investigating a very rare side effect – heart inflammation – that sometimes occurs in teens and young adults, mostly men.

Moderna provides the FDA with updated safety information, which it says supports adult-sized doses for 12- to 17-year-olds, and is also seeking permission to use half of that dose for 6- to 11-year-olds. Regulators are expected to consider all three age groups at once.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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