Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the emergency use of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children ages six months to four years old, but Hopkins County residents may have to wait a few weeks before getting their toddlers vaccinated.
Vaccines are expected to ship out to hospitals and health departments across the United States this week.
Hopkins County Health Department Director Denise Beach said they have placed an order for the Pfizer vaccine and expect to receive it before the end of the month.
“We are going to be giving the Pfizer because that is what we have been giving to the five to 12-year-olds, and we just thought we would keep it the same,” she said.
The Health Department will let the community know through their Facebook page and website when the vaccines for children under five come in.
The Pfizer vaccine is administered as a set of three doses in which the first two doses are administered three weeks apart, followed by the third dose at least eight weeks after the second. The Moderna vaccine is administered in two doses, one month apart.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said as with all vaccines, when authorizing COVID-19 vaccines intended for children, the FDA ensures that our evaluation and analysis of the data are rigorous and thorough.
“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,” he said.
Through testing, the Moderna vaccine was found to be 50.6% effective in preventing COVID-19 among participants six through 23 months and 36.8% effective in participants two through five years of age. As for side effects, participants six months through five years reported pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fever, and underarm swelling/tenderness of lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection.
When testing the Pfizer vaccine, the immune response of children six months through four years old was found to have a comparable immune response to the older participants. The most commonly reported side effects in participants six months to four years were irritability, decreased appetite, fever and pain, tenderness, and redness and swelling at the injection site.
FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said many parents, caregivers, and clinicians have been waiting for a vaccine for younger children and this action will help protect those down to six months of age.
“As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” he said.
Beach said she is very confident with these vaccines.
“All vaccines start out being a new vaccine at some point, but this vaccine has been looked at very closely, all the data is being kept, and it is considered very safe,” she said. “I would give this vaccine to my children.”
The new vaccines will help schools and communities get back to normal and prevent more serious outcomes from COVID-19 in children. She said children can have severe reactions to COVID that require hospitalizations, and they can get problems from long COVID.
“I think this is just another layer of protection to continue to make strides in our community against this terrible pandemic,” she said. “I encourage everyone to get their children vaccinated.”
The Health Department is not scheduling appointments for the 6-month to 4-year-olds yet but will start once vaccines are delivered.
The Health Department is still administering COVID-19 vaccines to anyone five and up on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon by appointment and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for walk-ins. To make an appointment, call the Health Department at 270-821-5242 and listen for the appointment button.