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COVID-19 vaccines for infants and toddlers could soon be available. Experts want families to prepare

Virus Outbreak Moderna Kids
Emma H. Tobin
/
AP
Ilana Diener holds her son, Hudson, 3, during an appointment for a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial in Commack, N.Y. on Nov. 30, 2021. On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, Moderna said its COVID-19 vaccine works in babies, toddlers and preschoolers, and if regulators agree it could mean a chance to finally start vaccinating the littlest kids by summer.

Federal health officials could authorize COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than 5 later this week. If they do, health experts say families should act quickly.

Doctors and public health experts suggest families with young children should make plans to get them vaccinated against the coronavirus.

A committee of independent experts with the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to meet Wednesday to decide whether to recommend authorizing vaccines for kids six months to five years-old.

Infants and toddlers could potentially receive three low doses from Pfizer or two from Moderna.

The latest data from Pfizer shows its three dose regimen is 80% effective at preventing illness from omicron, higher than Moderna. Officials say both are safe and good at protecting against severe disease.

If either vaccine is approved, Donald Schwarz, senior vice president of program with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said families should act quickly.

“What's being predicted is another big surge [in COVID cases], potentially in the fall. We don't want children to be harmed,” Schwarz said. “We know that we've had 1,200 children or more who've died from COVID. We don't want any more children in this country to die from COVID needlessly.”

A May survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found only 1 in 5 parents of young children planned to get them vaccinated right away once authorized for this age group.

Schwarz urged families to talk to trusted health professionals and others knowledgeable about vaccines to combat misinformation spread on social media and in the community.

RELATED: Vaccinating young kids might finally be possible this month. But will it be easy?

Working parents can also have a hard time taking time off to get their kids vaccinated, Schwarz added, and said it’s important to remove barriers.

“We also want to make sure that everybody from pharmacies to schools to recreation centers takes this on seriously, particularly over the summer, and provides more opportunities for parents to have their children immunized at convenient hours,” he said.

Even though young kids may have lower chances of getting severe COVID-19 than adults, they also have fewer options when it comes to preventing it.

Wearing masks isn't advised for children younger than 2, and oral antiviral treatments like Paxlovid are not authorized for kids under 12.

Schwarz said vaccines are safe and simple tools to reducing the risk of infection and hopes all families with young children take advantage of the opportunity to get them once they become available.

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I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.