The U.S. government is preparing to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of five – the only age group without an authorized vaccine – and it could happen very soon. Now, two-plus years into the COVID-19 pandemic, rollout of the vaccine for the youngest age group signals another sign that some of the harder parts of the pandemic could be behind us.
Earlier this month, Pfizer BioNTech officially filed for authorization to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its vaccine for kids under five years old. More details have recently been released, and the rollout could be just around the corner.
When can we expect COVID vaccines for kids under 5?
According to Reuters, the U.S. government is planning to roll out COVID vaccines for the youngest age group as soon as Feb. 21, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) document.
Advisers outside the FDA are scheduled to meet on Feb. 15, according to Reuters, to discuss whether they should recommend authorization of the vaccine. Roll out is set to begin less than a week after that if the vaccine is authorized.
How many doses of the vaccine will kids need?
If the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is authorized by the FDA for kids under five, they will receive a lower dose of the vaccine compared to the ones already approved for older kids and adults.
Pfizer/BioNTech tested a 3 microgram dose of the vaccine in the under-5 age group. This is much smaller than the 10 microgram dose for 5- to 11-year-olds and 30 micrograms for people aged 12 and up.
The initial authorization of the vaccines for children under 5 will likely be a two-dose schedule, even though the trials of the two-dose schedule didn’t meet target goals during the clinical trial for kids aged 2- to 4-years old. There could possibly be a third dose down the line, once more data is collected and analyzed, as researchers are currently studying whether it will help reach the clinical target goals.
When will the vaccines for kids under 5 be shipped?
The CDC document states the government intends of shipping an initial 10 million doses of the vaccine to states and other entities across the country before the end of February. The plan is to have them in place and ready should the FDA authorize its use.
Which areas will get the vaccines for children under 5 first?
Reuters reports that there are approximately 18 million children between the ages of 6-months to 4-years-old in the United States. Initial vaccines will most likely be shipped to federal pharmacy partners and other jurisdictions, and the first doses will be prioritized to areas where children are at higher risk for severe COVID.
Although having an authorized vaccine for this last age group will be an amazing step for getting out of the pandemic, there are concerns that parents won’t seek vaccination for their younger kids. According to a Kaiser Poll compiled earlier this month, only 31 percent of parents with a child under the age of five said they’d get their child vaccinated right away. An additional 29 percent said they would “wait and see,” and 26 percent said they will “definitely not” vaccinate their child.
However, data has shown, in all age groups, that getting vaccinated helps to curb the most severe symptoms of COVID, which are more likely to lead to hospitalization, ICU admittance, or death.