The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for children 6 months to 4 years old.
The shots for the youngest children could roll out as soon as this week. Here's what you need to know:
Which COVID-19 vaccines will be available to children from 6 months to 4 years old?
In recent days, federal regulators authorized COVID-19 vaccines from the pharmaceutical firms Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is newly available in two doses, one month apart for people from 6 months to 17 years old. People who are in this age group and immunocompromised may receive a third dose at least one month after receiving the second dose.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine now authorized for children from 6 months to 4 years old will be administered in three doses. The first two doses are given three weeks apart, while the third dose is given at least eight weeks after the second dose.
Why did it take longer to authorize a vaccine for the youngest kids? The shots have been available to children in other age groups for some time.
Enrolling young children in clinical trials usually takes longer than enrolling adults, experts said. In addition, Pfizer was ready to ask the FDA to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for the 6-months-to-4-years age group several months ago but decided to delay it until more recently.
“They felt the efficacy wasn’t high enough to achieve confidence in parents and medical providers,” said Dr. Matthew Harris, medical director of the Northwell Health vaccine program and a pediatric emergency medicine specialist. “So I look at it as not that it took so long, but it took long enough to ensure the vaccine dose is the appropriate balance between efficacy and minimizing side effects.”
Are these COVID-19 vaccines safe for my young children?
Local pediatricians and the federal government believe the vaccines are safe for young children. Harris points out the vaccines have been administered to children around the world with essentially no serious adverse effects.
“As a parent and a pediatrician, I am very reassured that the companies have produced vaccines that are effective and safe,” said Harris, who said his older children have already been vaccinated and he is looking forward to the same for his youngest child, an infant.
According to the FDA, some common short-term side effects found during the clinical trials included fatigue, headache, muscle aches, fever and chills.
The trials did not show a risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart) in this young age group after vaccination, but the FDA has said there is not enough data at this time to say whether there is a risk.
Some older teens and young adults have developed the conditions after vaccinations, but most cases resolve without long-term effects, the agency has said.
Where can I get my child who is under 5 years old vaccinated?
The state Department of Health said Sunday the vaccine for youngest children will be available at pediatricians, family physicians, local county health departments, federally qualified health centers and pharmacies enrolled in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
The state said providers from outside of New York City have placed preliminary orders for over 39,000 dosages, and the agency said it will work to ensure providers across the state can request additional doses.
Some local pediatricians are hoping to have the vaccine this week. Dr. Eve Meltzer Krief of Huntington Village Pediatrics said she will be ready to make appointments and administer the vaccine as soon as she finds out when the doses will arrive.
Some chain pharmacies have already made plans to vaccinate some of the youngest children. Walgreens said it will vaccinate children who are 3 and older and is now scheduling appointments starting June 25.
The company said on its website that "earlier appointments will be made available at select locations based on vaccine delivery in the coming days."
A spokesperson for CVS said the chain expects to get a supply of the vaccine this week.
"We plan to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to children 18 months through 4 years of age at our national network of 1,100 MinuteClinic locations once authorized supply is received," the spokesperson told Newsday on Sunday.