5 things Utah parents should know about COVID-19 vaccines for young children

dr Utah pediatric infectious disease expert Andrew Pavia explains the benefits of vaccinating children under the age of 5 against COVID-19.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Christopher Marroquin looks on as Curtis Evans administers a COVID-19 vaccine to his sister Genesis Marroquin Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at Midvale Elementary School. It is expected that COVID-19 vaccines will be approved for children up to 5 years of age in the coming days.

A year and a half after the first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Utah, parents may finally have the opportunity to vaccinate their children ages 5 and younger as early as next week.

That’s because the Food and Drug Administration approved Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months on Friday. Now, all it takes to give the green light to ship child-sized cans is final approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s really a big step,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah and director of epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, in a community briefing on Friday.

“We’ve had several months now where there’s been a lot of disease out there,” Pavia said, “and for younger children there wasn’t a vaccine that would protect them.”

Here are five things to know when vaccinating younger children against COVID-19.

1. There are several places where you can get your child vaccinated.

The Utah Department of Health emphasizes that parents have their children vaccinated by pediatricians and general practitioners, Pavia said, “so that parents can have their children vaccinated where they are used to being vaccinated.”

But vaccines for people under the age of 5 will also be available at certain public health sites and select pharmacies, Pavia said.

In Salt Lake County, parents can already begin scheduling free, preventive COVID-19 vaccination appointments for young children, with the first slots scheduled for Tuesday, pending CDC approval.

2. The approved vaccines differ in a few important respects.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are administered slightly differently. The Moderna vaccine consists of two doses and is given to children aged 6 months to 5 years, while the Pfizer vaccine is given in three doses to children aged 6 months to 4 years.

The difference is due to the size of each company’s dose. Pavia explained that Moderna chose a quarter of the adult dose in its children’s vaccine, while Pfizer chose a tenth of an adult dose, which only elicited a strong antibody response after three vaccinations.

However, Pavia said that a three-dose series has been shown to produce the best results, and that Moderna will likely recommend a third dose by late summer as well.

3. Children have contracted severe cases of COVID-19.

The omicron variant hit children hard.

As of March 2020, more than 570,000 cases of COVID-19 in children under the age of 1 and nearly two million cases in 1-4 year olds have been reported to the CDC, Pavia said.

Cases increased dramatically in early 2022 when the Omicron variant emerged, and during that time 15% of child emergency admissions in supervised programs were due to COVID-19.

“This equated to several million emergency room visits,” Pavia said. He also noted “a huge spike” in COVID-19 hospitalizations this past winter.

“In fact, when omicron struck, it was children aged 6 months to 4 years who had the highest hospitalization rates,” he said. “A lot of this was because we were now getting vaccines in the arms of our children who were 5 years old or older.”

4. Vaccines do not provide complete protection but prevent serious illnesses.

Vaccines don’t completely protect you from infection, Pavia said.

“I can confirm that; I infected myself,” he said. “But they offer very good protection against more serious diseases.”

He said that before recommended vaccines were approved in the US, COVID-19 was causing on average more deaths per year than hepatitis A from 1990-1995 and meningococcal disease from 2000-2004 in certain demographic groups who had not been vaccinated against every disease. caused.

“We vaccinate our children to protect them from much smaller risks than the risk that COVID poses,” Pavia said.

5. Possible side effects

Pavia said the COVID-19 vaccine can cause pain at the injection site and redness is sometimes common. Swelling of the lymph nodes is another side effect, although it’s rare.

The two vaccines also cause different rates of fever, with 7-8% of children getting a fever after the second dose of Pfizer compared to about 15% of children receiving Moderna’s vaccine, which is likely due to the higher dose, Pavia said.

He also noted that side effects are often “a little more bothersome after the second dose than after the first.”

Visit for more information and vaccine availability. 5 things Utah parents should know about COVID-19 vaccines for young children

Joel McCord

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