Children under 5 should be able to get COVID-19 vaccines by next week with federal officials poised to give long-awaited approval to shots for the youngest Americans.
Many parents were frustrated earlier this year when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration delayed emergency authorization for the group to get more information about safety and efficacy. That time is coming soon after the FDA granted approval to shots for children as young as 6 months old on Friday. Action from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel is expected this weekend.
For some parents, the news may not spur them to get their youngest children vaccinated, as Maine has made slow progress in getting children immunized against COVID-19. For others, the news could mean a closer return to normalcy. Here is what you need to know.
When are shots expected to be available?
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention sent out an advisory in early June to health care providers allowing them to begin pre-ordering vaccines. If providers got their shipments, they would not have been allowed to administer them until the federal CDC gave approval. Providers were required to order at least 100 doses of either vaccine.
On Wednesday, the agency told providers that the first round of shipments will be arriving on Monday, the Juneteenth holiday. Any pre-orders are expected to be delivered by the end of next week, when they will likely be able to start getting administered.
The vaccination effort for this age group will be more centered on doctor’s offices than community-based clinics that marked earlier stages of the vaccine effort. Check with your child’s doctor to find out how they are handling appointments.
How is this round of vaccines different from other age groups?
Pfizer’s vaccine for young children is one-tenth of the adult dose. It is given in three doses, with the first two given three weeks apart and the third at least two months later. It is not a booster shot. Moderna offers a two-shot regimen that are both a quarter of an adult dose. They are given four weeks apart.
Both have been deemed safe and effective for children under 5 and over 6 months old, although Maine and the nation have made slower progress in getting younger children immunized against COVID-19 relative to other age groups.
A May survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 38 percent of parents would want to wait to see how other children fared with the vaccine before getting their child vaccinated. Only 18 percent of parents with children under 5 were prepared to get them vaccinated as soon as possible, underscoring some anxiety among the American public.
What has taken so long?
The FDA authorized vaccines for children 5 through 11 in October, just 10 months after COVID-19 vaccines started becoming available. Pfizer officials promised that vaccine data for children under 5 would be available by the end of 2021, but then revised that timeline to study whether a third dose would provide the best protection against the super-contagious omicron variant.
In January, the White House’s chief medical advisor, Anthony Fauci, said shots could be available by February. Instead, the FDA delayed its evaluatory meeting of a Pfizer vaccination regime that month after the company said it needed even more time to study how many shots are necessary for maximum effectiveness.