Americans children under the age of five have begun to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – with President Joe Biden exclaiming Tuesday that the nation is the only one in the world to jab children as young as six months old.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were approved by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for children between six months and four years old last week, and their administration into children began this week.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 2.7 million shots have been delivered to vaccine providers around the U.S., with up to ten million doses to be delivered as part of this first batch.
President Joe Biden, who has long been a proponent of expanding America’s COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, remarked Tuesday that America was the only country in the world vaccinating children as young as six months.
It comes as Covid cases in the U.S. remain steady at around 100,000 per day, and deaths remain in the 300 per day area.
A four year old girl in New Orleans, Louisiana, winces as she receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday – the first day the shots became eligible
A 16-month-old child in Salt Lake City, Utah, is held by her mother and embraces her stuffed animal and she receives the COVID-19 vaccine
A four-year-old girl reacts in agony as she receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine in New Orleans, Louisiana on Tuesday
‘We’re the only country in the world doing this right now,’ Biden said at a vaccination clinic in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, while taking pictures with some in attendence.
‘This is a great day for you all. Thanks for the example you are setting.’
Uptake for these shots may be limited, though, especially during the early stages of their rollout.
Polling for the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only about one in five parents of children under age five (18 percent) are eager to get their child vaccinated right away, while a larger share (38 percent) say they plan to wait a while to see how the vaccine is working for others.
About four in ten parents of children under five are more reluctant to get their child vaccinated, with 27 percent saying they will ‘definitely not’ get their child vaccinated and 11 percent saying they will only do so if they are required.
There was also limited demand for the shots last time the FDA made them eligible for a younger age group, children aged five to 11.
According to official CDC data, only 30 percent of Americans in the age group are fully vaccinated, half of the 60 percent between ages 12 to 17. Minors in general have low vaccination rates, with the youngest adults having vaccine uptake of around 80 percent.
A four-year-old child in New Orleans, Louisiana who had just received a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine shows relief after the needle is removed from his arm
A two year old girl in Seattle, Washington, is comforted by her mother ahead of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on the jab’s first day of eligibility
A three-year-old child in Los Angeles California, braces himself to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on the first day of the shot’s availability
Former FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb, who now serves as a board member at Pfizer, said over the weekend that he predicts demand for the jabs to be low at first.
‘I think it’s going to be a little bit more of a slow rollout relative to what we’ve seen in past rollouts with the other age groups,’ he told CBS’ Face the Nation.
‘There are going to be pharmacies that are vaccinating children. CVS is going to move it into their pharmacies, but they’re only moving in to the pharmacies with advanced care providers with their MinuteClinics.
‘Maybe around children’s hospitals, you’ll see some clinics stood up, but most people are probably going to get vaccinated in their pediatricians’ offices, and it’s going to take a little bit more time to get the vaccine into those local settings because it’s more difficult to vaccinate a child who is very young.’
Dr Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid response coordinator, agrees that it will be slow at first, but hopes that uptake will eventually grow as parents are informed by their doctor.
‘We expect confidence in these vaccines to build over time in these populations,’ he said on CBS mornings on Monday.
‘What we have encouraged parents to do is talk to their family physician talk to their pediatrician, you know the people who take care of their kid and have that conversation. I think over time we are going to see a majority of parents ending up getting their children protected with these vaccines.’
A four-year-old boy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, winces as he receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine on the shot’s first day of availability
A four-year-old boy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, receives a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine
A four-year-old boy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, receives a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at a local pharmacy
A four-year-old boy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, winces as he receives a shot of a COVID-19 on the first day that it became available to his age group
A one-year-old girl in New Orleans, Louisiana, holds her toy while she receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine
Jha also encouraged parents to get their child vaccinated even if they had natural immunity from a previous Covid infection.
‘Covid has been quite common in children actually we think almost 70 percent of kids have ended up getting infected with Covid,’ Jha told CBS mornings.
‘Still worth getting the vaccine, it really offers an extra layer of protection and what vaccines do is they keep kids out of the hospital and that’s why they are so effective.
‘And everybody deserves that level of protection. Even if your child has been previously infected the strong recommendation is to get your child protected.’
There are still some concerns about the shots, though, and the small sample sizes used in their clinical trials. Especially as children make up around 0.1 percent of U.S. Covid deaths despite a vast majority having been infected at this point.
Pfizer revealed preliminary data last month showing the vaccine was 80 percent effective at preventing infection from Omicron, though the efficacy rate may change as more trial participants need to be infected before the figures can be finalized.
The Pfizer jab will come in three doses, unlike the two dose standard set for older age groups. It will also be only three micrograms, a tenth of the size of the standard adult dose, and a third of dosage for children five through 12.
The switch was made towards the end of last year when early data showed that only two doses of the jab provided little protection against the virus.
‘We know many parents in the U.S. have been eagerly awaiting an authorized vaccine for their children under 5 and we are proud to now offer them a vaccine option with a favorable safety profile,’ Albert Bourla, CEO of New York City-based Pfizer, said in a statement.
Moderna will use a two-dose jab for young children, with each shot being 25 micrograms – a fourth the size of its adult sized shots.
In clinical trials, the Moderna shot was 50 percent effective at preventing mild infection from the virus.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company recruited 260 children aged two to five years old for their trial.
Pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fever and swelling of the groin and underarm were the most common reported side-effects of the shots.
‘We are thrilled that the FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children and adolescents, particularly for our vulnerable, youngest children,’ Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said in a statement.
Both of the shot’s were deemed safe and effective by both the FDA and by a panel of outside advisors, known as the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC).
‘In addition to making certain the data for these vaccines met FDA’s rigorous standards, the agency’s convening of an advisory committee was part of a transparent process to help the public have a clear understanding of the safety and effectiveness data supporting the authorization of these two vaccines for pediatric populations,’ Dr Peter Marks, the FDA’s top regulator, said in a statement.
The most concerning, and most publicized, side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are the heart inflammation conditions myocarditis and pericarditis.
The FDA reports that the risk of these conditions is low in this age group, though, instead striking 12 to 17 year olds the most with the Pfizer shot, and 18 to 24 year olds with the Moderna jab.