Parents may have questions now that Moderna has requested the emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine for children under six years old.
Dr. Tracy Maier, a pediatrician with Rochester Regional Health’s Penn Fair Pediatric Group, has some answers, she says. Bottom line is that it could help, Maier said during a Zoom meeting with members of the media this week.
“It would be just one more implement in our defense against COVID,” she said. “Clearly, COVID is not going to go away, and we’ve proven that the best way to prevent the spread is to get vaccinated and to wear masks.”
“Traditionally, our population under age two has not been masking, so they are exposed, and our two- to five-year-olds are masking, if they tolerate it,” she said. “This is just one more line of defense against COVID.”
As many adults have experienced, masks, in general, have been dropped in lieu of getting vaccinations, loosened mandates and/or a belief that the imminent danger is gone. Though Genesee County’s data hasn’t exactly supported that notion. Latest statistics have shown an uptick in cases, with 168 new positive COVID-19 cases from April 13 to 19, and 278 cases from April 20 to 26. There have been a total of 185 deaths reported due to the virus as of April 25.
Ages 0 to 19 had dipped from April 6 to 13 and then began to rise again toward the end of the month, coinciding with an increase of positives from the 60+ group, according to the Genesee Orleans Department of Health website.
So does that mean that parents should line up to get their four-year-old a shot? Don’t just take Maier’s advice, she said. Have a talk with your child’s pediatrician. Ask questions, such as what are the benefits, the risks, and if there is anything parents should consider as unique to their child’s circumstances that make a vaccine more or less important to their health.
Other questions may be what are the long-term effects? What difference will it make to my child with the vaccine versus not getting one, Maier said. For those in-between situations where, say, a child is under five and a parent is wondering whether to get the vaccine, “it depends on the circumstances,” she said.
“If the child is at high risk because they have an underlying medical condition, I’d say let’s go ahead with this when it’s approved for your age group,” she said. “If not, I’d say, let’s wait until the age that we know when it’s effective.”
Moderna’s request for emergency use, if approved, would make it the first vaccine for children under five. There are 18 million such children in the United States currently not eligible to receive a vaccine, she said.
Despite lessened vigilance about wearing a mask, getting a vaccination “is still very important at this phase,” she said.
“COVID is a virus, and we know from looking at other viruses (influenza) that viruses mutate and it’s going to mutate quickly,” she said. “And we know that vaccine is one of the greatest things that we have in our defense of this virus … to continue with our daily lives as usual. Once you are vaccinated, once you have been exposed and don’t have any symptoms, you can go on about your lives … children can still go to school, and they can still go to daycare (if no symptoms). It allows life to continue on as it normally would.”
This week Moderna, a biotechnology company pioneering “messenger RNA” therapeutics and vaccines, announced that it submitted a request for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine in children six months to under two years, and two years to under six years of age. The request has been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval. The FDA has 30 days for the approval process.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, if the FDA does approve the vaccine, it will continue to oversee its production to "ensure continuing safety." Monitoring of the vaccine and production, including periodic facility inspections, must continue as long as the manufacturer holds a license for the vaccine product.
Dr. Tracy Maier is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Penn Fair Pediatric Group in Penfield.