By Annalisa Pesek
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unanimously approved the “emergency use” of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shots for babies six months and older, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) endorsing the decision today in a panel vote of 12-0.
CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky blessed the committee recommendation, stating that “all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Walensky took to Twitter, writing: “Today, I endorsed ACIP’s recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a #COVID19 vaccine. Parents, I strongly encourage you to get your children vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Today, I endorsed ACIP’s recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a #COVID19 vaccine.
Parents, I strongly encourage you to get your children vaccinated against COVID-19.
— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) June 18, 2022
According to the CDC’s own website, updated June 2, 2022, 442 children, ages 0-4, have died “from” COVID, while 815 children, ages 5-18, are counted as COVID deaths.
Yet the CDC website data fails to provide a description of the child’s health condition at the time of death, including whether comorbidities were present or not.
Now, with the approval of the shots for toddlers and preschoolers, nearly 20 million more kids are eligible for a jab that has not been proven to inoculate against the virus but merely lessen symptoms of severe illness and hospitalization rates, which were extraordinarily low among children to begin with.
Parent reaction to the news appears mixed, as vaccines for adults have been proven not to provide absolute protection from the virus and have shown serious side effects that have not been thoroughly vetted.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation Vaccine Monitor Survey, about one in five American parents said they’d get a COVID-19 shot for their babies six months and older. The study found that:
- 18 percent are eager to get their child vaccinated right away.
- 38 percent say they plan to wait a while to see how the vaccine is working for others.
- 27 percent say they will “definitely not” get their child vaccinated.
- 11 say they will only do so if they are required.
Moreover, “more than half of the parents of children say they do not have enough information about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness for children under age 5.”
What parents do know, however, is that one shot is not enough.
A report by CNBC, which, interestingly, if one clicks on the linked words “Moderna” or “Pfizer” is redirected to that pharmaceutical company’s stocks page, distilled the differences between the two vaccines.
According to the FDA:
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a primary series of two doses, one month apart, to individuals 6 months through 17 years of age. The vaccine is also authorized to provide a third primary series dose at least one month following the second dose for individuals in this age group who have been determined to have certain kinds of immunocompromise.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a primary series of three doses in which the initial two doses are administered three weeks apart followed by a third dose administered at least eight weeks after the second dose in individuals 6 months through 4 years of age.
Information about each vaccine is available in the fact sheets for healthcare providers administering vaccine and the fact sheets for recipients and caregivers.
Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines for infants through preschoolers differ in the number of shots they use, the dosage level and the eligibility age to receive them. Pfizer’s vaccine also appeared more effective than Moderna’s shots with children under 5, though the data is preliminary.
Pfizer’s vaccine is administered in three doses for children 6 months to 4 years old. The shots are dosed at 3 micrograms, one-tenth the level of what adults receive. Three shots were about 75% effective at preventing infection from omicron in 6-month- to 2-year-olds and 82% effective in 2- to 4-year-olds.
“It is crucial that parents who opt for Pfizer make sure their kids get the third shot to have protection against the virus,” read a CNBC report, presumably citing the FDA advisory committee hearings, which took place on June 14-15, and are available for public viewing via lengthy YouTube presentations.
“Two doses [of Pfizer] are only about 14% effective at preventing infection for kids under age 2, and 33% effective for those ages 2 to 4,” found the committee. Moreover, the committee reported that Moderna vaccine is administered in two doses for children 6 months to 5 years old in dosages of 25 micrograms, one-fourth the level that adults receive.
“Moderna’s vaccine was about 51% effective at preventing infection from omicron for kids 6 months to 2 years old, and about 37% effective for kids ages 2 to 5 years old.” However, stronger protection against crippling illness is expected as children have higher antibody levels than adults who received two doses, noted the company.
One mother from Snohomish, Washington, with whom the New American magazine spoke, said one of the greatest reasons she would not give her 18-month-old daughter the shot is her lack of trust in the medical establishment.
“The whole politization of COVID has caused a lot of people, who are not necessarily anti-vax, to question the motivations of medical professionals, from across the spectrum of medical treatments,” said the 30-something, first-time mother.
“At this point, we have decided to stop giving our child all vaccines. It’s just not about deciding if the COVID vaccine is safe, but if any of the vaccines are a good treatment for our daughter.”
“As a parent,” she continued, “I don’t want to entrust my child to these doctors. Weighing the risks and benefits, it doesn’t make sense since to give my healthy child a shot for a virus she will not get seriously ill from. I feel like the COVID shots are all marketing and that they just want parents to get it but aren’t giving a good reason why to get it.”
The mother noted that the Merriam-Webster definition of “vaccine” has changed from “an injection that no longer prevents illnesss” to one that “is administered (as by injection) to stimulate the body’s immune response against a specific infectious agent or disease lessens the symptoms of the disease.”
While the mass media is reporting what appears to be the vast majority of parents ecstatic about giving their kids the shot, one father of a toddler with whom I spoke told me emphatically that “we’re not getting any shots. Our baby is not getting any shots. At this time there is not enough of a reason to get them. We don’t know the side effects, and there could be other damages, such as myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation that has been strongly reported in younger male age groups. These are the effects we can’t foresee. Why take the chance?”
“I like to be informed,” the mom continued, “and we need to take a minute to do more research to be confident we’re making the right decision when it comes to the health of our child.”
As for informing the public, the FDA released this statement on Friday about extending “emergency” authorization for the Moderna vaccine because of its use for children six months through 17, whereas previously, it was approved for adults 18 and older.
While kindergartners through high-schoolers can now get the Moderna shot, the jab for this age group was previously released only through Pfizer.
Conversely, for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, emergency use authorization was extended to include individuals six months through four years of age, while previously it was authorized for children five years and older.
As the FDA promises “rigorous and comprehensive” reporting of the evaluation and safety of these shots, stating the “potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks,” many parents are skeptical about the risks, even as the CDC has documented very clearly children are at low risk for contracting the coronavirus and becoming seriously ill.
Notably, common side effects from the vaccines are pain at the injection site, irritability and crying, loss of appetite and sleepiness, according to the FDA.
The agency claims “very few children who received either shot developed a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and there were no cases of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation, in Pfizer’s or Moderna’s trials,” so far.
With the backing of the CDC, the Biden White House confirms as many as ten million doses of vaccinations can begin being distributed as early as Tuesday. CNBC reported on Friday that the White House warned that “appointments might be limited initially, but every parent who wants to get their child vaccinated should be able to do so within weeks.”