WASHINGTON – June 17 – On June 17th, the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for young children, infants and toddlers one day after an independent advisory panel unanimously recommended them; and one day later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccine after their advisory panel unanimously approved the vaccine for this age group. The American Medical Association, the American Association of Pediatrics and the National Association of Nurse Practitioners also support these vaccines. Moderna’s vaccine has been recommended for children ages 6 months to 5 years old and Pfizer’s for children ages 6 months to 4 years old. This will cover close to 18 million kids. The data showed that the vaccines were safe and effective at preventing disease in this age group. The White House has allowed states to order millions of doses ahead of time. Shipments to doctors’ offices and pediatric care facilities will follow. Vaccinations may begin as soon as June 21st. The timeline would give parents the opportunity to get their children fully vaccinated before the beginning of the next school year. White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha said 3 weeks ago, “Our expectation is that within weeks every parent who wants their child to get vaccinated will be able to get an appointment.” Parents of young children have been waiting more than a year for shots for their kids.
Even though it is known that young children are generally at low risk to develop serious illness, vaccination can reduce the incidence of severe illness and potential problems such as long Covid and death. Officials from the C.D.C. said that more than half of young children hospitalized with Covid had no underlying medical conditions. During the Omicron wave last winter, young children were hospitalized at a higher rate than older children and adolescents, and their illness tended to be at least as severe. According to the CDC, more than 30 thousand children ages 6 months through 4 years old have been hospitalized and there have been 442 deaths from COVID-19. According to Paul Offitt, director of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “Covid is one of the top 10 killers of children.”
Vaccination also lowers the rate of virus transmission and will help to reduce the impact of COVID-19 since children can spread the virus to adults who may be more vulnerable to getting sick. Therefore, the more people who become vaccinated, the lower the rate of infection and virus transmission to others.
Seventy percent of the population in Buncombe County have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and the 5 to 11-year-old age group has the lowest vaccination rates at 35%. However, younger children may prove to be more difficult to vaccinate. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that only 18% of parents of children under 5 are likely to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as the vaccine is available. Therefore, it is important for the Public Health Department to get the message out about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5.
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Contact: Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org