COVID-19 vaccines for children are in the news once again, as Pfizer has asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of the vaccine for children ages 5-11 and it appears vaccines for younger children may be on the horizon.
Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a request for the childrens’ booster authorization in late April, shortly before Moderna submitted an emergency use authorization request for a COVID vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years.
The Washington Post reported rumblings that Pfizer may soon follow suit, asking the FDA to approve a three-dose vaccination for children 6 months to 4 years.
As of press time, Pfizer had not yet submitted a request relating to the youngest children, and the FDA did not issue a decision on Moderna’s vaccination for the youngest children. The FDA also had not yet authorized Pfizer’s booster for those ages 5-11.
Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said the local health department will offer these three different vaccines if/when the FDA grants emergency use authorization.
Per Illinois Department of Public Health data updated Monday, children ages 5-11 are less likely to be vaccinated than other age groups.
In Monroe County, approximately 27 percent of children ages 5-11 were fully vaccinated, compared to 51.58 percent of those ages 12-17, 63.08 percent ages 18-64 and 94.74 percent ages 65 and above, IDPH reported Monday.
Approximately 31 percent of Monroe County children ages 5-11 have received a first dose, IDPH data said.
Wagner explained this is not surprising, as generally childrens’ risk of severe COVID-related illness is lower than adults.
“Kids are at an almost nothing risk for a severe outcome from COVID-19,” Wagner said.
Whether a booster is urgently needed for children ages 5-11 or if immunity from the first two doses is still sufficient to ward off severe COVID illness is debated among experts, National Public Radio reported.
It is widely understood one’s vaccine-induced immunity can wane over time.
On an episode of NPR’s “Morning Edition” podcast, correspondent and senior editor on NPR’s science desk Rob Stein explained this winter’s Omicron wave provided an estimated 75 percent of children ages 11 and younger with some antibodies.
Yet, he said, this does not mean one should necessarily decide not to vaccinate their kids in hopes they have enough natural immunity. The CDC said the vaccine provides stronger protection against COVID-19 than the antibodies an unvaccinated individual may have.
The approval timeline for COVID-19 vaccines targeting those younger than 5 is expected to be longer, the Washington Post reported. This is, in part, due to the complexities of more variants and vaccine side effects possibly being more serious for the younger population, the report said.
While Wagner said he has not seen “enough information” to form an opinion on authorization for vaccines for children under 5, he said parents should consider a variety of factors when deciding to vaccinate children 5 and older.
These factors include if the child has underlying health conditions that put them at a greater risk for severe COVID symptoms, if they are often around others who are high risk and if they will find themselves in positions that require it, such as specific colleges and universities.