As of June 18, 2022 COVID vaccines have been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for children as young as six months old. This approval applies to both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
As of late June, Lucas County averaged 41 new cases per day. Per the Lucas County Health Department, 30.25 percent of children and young adults aged 0-19 years old have completed their vaccination series. In Lucas County, 58.42 percent of the population has completed vaccinations.
Where to go
Not all pediatrician’s offices have a supply of COVID vaccines in the proper doses for children under five, so contact your child’s doctor and local pharmacies to check the availability of the vaccines. Dr. R.W. Mills, Chief Medical Officer of Nationwide Children’s Toledo, says, “Some pharmacies may be hesitant to vaccinate a child as young as six months. Administering a shot to a baby or toddler who may be resistant is not the same as administering a vaccine to an individual who is able to sit still.”
The Lucas County Health Department is currently scheduling vaccines Monday-Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm and Friday 9am-3:30pm. They began administering doses for children as young as six months old at the end of June.
If a child has not yet started their vaccination series, parents may want to consider timing this with the beginning of school or heading into the winter months. For ages six months to four years, the second Pfizer-BioNTech dose is given four to eight weeks after the first, and the third does at least eight weeks after the second dose. For ages five to 18, there is a two-dose series three to eight weeks apart.
The dosing for Moderna vaccines is different from Pfizer, making the dosing times different as well. The two Moderna doses are given four to eight weeks apart for kids six months to 18 years old. Dr. Mills recommends waiting closer until the eight-week mark to receive the second and third doses for both vaccines, as this increases immunity and also decreases side effects.
Guidelines for when to receive booster shots vary based on whether your child receives the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, booster shots are recommended for kids five and older at least five months after their initial round of vaccinations are completed. Booster shots for those who completed the Moderna primary series are typically only reserved for those who are immunocompromised or have an underlying condition. If your child received the Moderna primary series and you are wondering about a booster or ways to maintain protection, Dr. Mills suggests speaking with your child’s pediatrician.
Benefits of ongoing protection
While Lucas County’s current risk level is low, Dr. Mills says the medical community is expecting continued surges around times of heavy travel, such as holidays, and during the fall and winter. “Once we are back to doing more things indoors and having people back together again in small areas, the level of transmission is expected to increase.”
“One of the misconceptions is that if you get infected you don’t need a vaccination, but that natural immunity only lasts three to four months. You are also more likely to get Long COVID if you have not been immunized,” Dr. Mills clarifies.
Dr. Mill explains that the effects of Long COVID are the same in kids as they are in adults, “We continue to learn about this as time goes on, a significant number of kids have Long COVID symptoms. They continue to have difficulty breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty with memory and brain fog.”
As with adults, underlying conditions for children do increase their risk of severe disease, including Long COVID. The high risk factors include obesity, heart disease, lung diseases, neurologic diseases. Dr. Mills says it is possible for kids without underlying conditions to also experience severe disease to the point of hospitalization.
Concerns about side effects
A common concern with the Covid vaccines has been the potential long and short-term side effects. If a baby experiences side effects, they typically show up in the same way side effects do for other childhood immunizations: irritability, sleepiness and maybe a fever. Older kids may experience the same effects as adults: chills, fatigue and fever.
Myocarditis is a medical condition typically caused by viruses and causes inflammation of the heart. This condition was not something many parents thought much about for their kids until it became associated with COVID-19. While this has been a rare side effect of COVID-19 vaccines, kids are 50 times more likely to get myocarditis from a COVID infection than they are from the vaccine. While Myocarditis is rare, males aged 12-39 are at higher risk for this side effect with the Moderna vaccine. If this is a concern for parents, Dr. Mills encourages parents to ask about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“The benefit we have with all of this is that these [the vaccines] were all done on adults first. That’s how we’ve been able to learn that greater intervals between doses decrease side effects and increase immunity. Any children in clinical trials were monitored very closely. These new approvals have been approved unanimously by the FDA.” Dr. Mills explains.
Due to the ongoing changes that occur with new knowledge, Dr. Mills recommends staying up to date with the CDC and calling your doctor’s office to make sure information or plans you are making with vaccines is current as not all online websites are updated in a timely fashion.