The exciting news in pediatrics is that we are finally able to vaccinate our patients against COVID-19 starting at 6 months of age. We held our first vaccine clinic at The Village Doctor last week and all of the babies and toddlers have done well so far, many of them were even very brave and did not cry, much to our surprise!
While it took longer than expected for approval, the timing is good in that we are seeing more COVID cases in the pediatric population, likely due to the more infectious variants (Omicron BA.4 and BA.5) that are circulating as well as the general pandemic fatigue. Last week, nearly 76,000 children tested positive, which is up from 63,000 the week before. Over 13 million cases have been reported throughout the pandemic thus far, with about 6 million of those occurring this year.
Unfortunately, nationwide only about a third of the 5-11 year olds and two thirds of the 12-18 year olds are vaccinated despite being eligible. While thankfully children tend to have mild or even asymptomatic disease (especially if vaccinated), some do still end up in the hospital and a majority of those are unvaccinated. In addition, once the acute disease is over, there are some rare specific complications (MIS-C), but we still don’t know what other potential effects children could have from the disease itself down the road. Children’s National Hospital is currently conducting a three-year study to learn more about the long-term effects and they estimate that up to 10% of cases could lead to some degree of long COVID, with a wide range of symptoms. As more and more children are vaccinated, we’ll also get a better sense of any adverse events on a much larger scale and will be able to compare more long term benefits.
Currently, there are two vaccines available to the 6 month to 5 year age group: Pfizer and Moderna. Both vaccines likely have similar efficacy and safety profiles based on the studies that were recently completed so whichever is available to you is a good option. We are currently offering the Moderna vaccine to our patients under 5 as it is two doses given 1 month apart and thus the children can be considered fully vaccinated after about 6 weeks.
If your child is over 5, they are eligible for a booster once they are 5 months out from their second vaccine. We are not able to offer vaccines to those over 5 yet, but do hope that we will be able to at some point in the future once they become more routine. The FDA has asked vaccine manufacturers to tailor a booster for release in mid-Fall to include the new sub variants in addition to the original virus. We will be paying close attention to this for both our pediatric and adult patients. We will be offering more clinics for the 6 months to 5 year olds over this summer. Please look out for emails with more details or feel free to call or email with any questions regarding COVID vaccination for your child.
Jacqueline Phillips, MD, July 6, 2022