COVID Vaccines for Ages 6 Months - 4 Years Available Now
As a pediatrician, I have waited a long time for the approval of COVID vaccines for ages 6 months – 4 years. I know many parents are excited for this opportunity as well! The Academy of Pediatrics support vaccination of all eligible children with the COVID-19 vaccine. I am so eager to have COVID vaccine and its protection available to almost all of my patients. I have heard from many parents about just how excited they are for the vaccine, and I am excited to share some of the important reasons for vaccinating children below.
We know COVID can be serious. While the majority of kids do well, millions of children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began. They missed school, sports, and other fun after school activities. Many had uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms that lasted for weeks or longer. Thousands have been hospitalized, and scarily, some have died. Rarely, those who have COVID-19 infection can later develop a condition called “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children” or MIS-C which is very serious and results in hospitalization. There is also much we don’t know about the long term effects of COVID-19 infection still.
Vaccinated kids are less likely to spread COVID to others. While kids don’t usually become very ill with COVID-19, they can spread COVID-19 to the people in their lives. Vaccinating kids decreases the amount of viral replication in their bodies and decreases the likelihood of spreading it to the more vulnerable people who live or work with them. Vaccinating our younger kids means whole families and communities are safer.
Vaccines are safe and effective. We know the vaccines are safe. More than 15,000 children were enrolled in vaccine trials for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. No safety concerns arose. Pfizer was more than 80% effective against symptomatic infection in the under 5 age group. The Moderna vaccine is 51% effective against symptomatic infection for kids 6 months - 2 years and 37% effective against symptomatic infections in kids 2 - 5 years old. These trials were conducted during the Omicron wave. We also know that there are not long-term effects from vaccines that we need to worry about unlike with the COVID-19 virus. It is currently recommended that your child receives the version of the vaccine that is available to them soonest.
Side effects are mild. Millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to kids so far. Mild localized reactions to vaccine are common and last a day or two. Serious reactions are virtually non-existent. Kids are far more likely to develop a complication from COVID than from the vaccines. There are very few medical reasons not to vaccinate. In fact, when a child has or has had a serious medical condition, it usually means that it’s even more important for them to get vaccinated.
There are risks to not getting vaccinated. The most common side effect of NOT getting vaccinated is illness. Many kids will have mild illness, but a few could get really sick and need hospital care. Some people who get COVID have symptoms that don’t go away for a long time. This could affect their ability to play sports or participate in other activities. A few kids could experience heart inflammation (myocarditis) or swelling of their organs called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
COVID vaccines are free. If you have insurance, your insurance might be charged, but you won’t be. No copay. No bill. Free. If you do not have insurance, you will not be charged.
It’s fast, easy, and convenient. Those who need initial vaccines for their child can visit the COVID Resource Center to get a vaccine without an appointment. Check hours at https://svhealthcare.org/COVID-Resource-Center. It is also offered in some local pediatrician offices including SVMC Pediatrics. Once the vaccine is administered, there is a 15-minute observation period, and this typically is the longest part of the entire visit.
If you have questions about the vaccine, please ask. You can e-mail your questions to email@example.com or ask at your next appointment with your pediatrician. I hope that most parents will come to feel the same relief and joy many of my patients' parents and I feel at having this powerful protection available to them.
Meghan Gunn, MD, is the chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington. She is also a pediatrician at SVMC Pediatrics.