By Mary O’KEEFE
On June 17 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for children down to 6 months.
A day later the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” according to the CDC website.
Pediatrician Dr. John Rodarte in La Cañada Flintridge is preparing for the vaccines to be available for his patients.
“We [will], hopefully, be up and running with [the COVID-19] vaccine next week,” he said.
Vaccines might be available even earlier, he added; it depends on when they receive the doses.
“We do recommend it,” Rodarte said of administering the vaccine to children.
He added that a lot of kids would do fine if exposed and tested positive for COVID-19; however, there are risks of getting the virus including not knowing the effects of long COVID and MIS-C.
Long COVID, according to the CDC, is when people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 experience long-term effects. These can include a variety of ongoing health issues that can last weeks, months or years. Those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected may also be at a higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions compared to those who are vaccinated and have had breakthrough infections. In some cases people who have post-COVID conditions may not have tested positive for the virus or even know they were infected.
MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children), formerly called pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome or PIMS, describes a health condition seen in children who have been infected with novel coronavirus, then recovered from it but later have an immune response that results in symptoms of significant levels of inflammation in organ systems, according to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).
“MIS-C is similar in some ways to other inflammatory conditions like Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. Children who have MIS-C generally did not have obvious symptoms when they were infected with novel coronavirus, like cough, and generally were healthy prior to developing MIS-C,” according to CHLA.
Rodarte said he understands parents have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine for children. He said some think that because their child has already tested positive for COVID-19 they are not at risk.
“[They think] ‘I had it already so I am good,’” Rodarte said. “Natural immunity doesn’t last as long as [parents] may think.”
It is not clear how long natural immunity will last after a person had COVID-19.
Rodarte also understands that parents are concerned about their younger children getting the vaccine.
Last year the FDA approved vaccines for 5-to-11-year-old children.
“The mechanism is not new, it’s not new technology,” Rodarte said of the vaccine process. The mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been in development for over 15 years.
“There are some who have been chomping at the bit to get the vaccine, especially before [summer] family travels; others are [on the fence], like the initial rollout for older kids, and others who will not get the vaccine,” he said.
The youngest children have continued to be in a type of isolation while older children, who have been able to receive the vaccine, have enjoyed more freedom.
Rodarte added that with this new vaccine approval kids can go back to events like Mommy and Me classes and parents can feel more comfortable and confident about the interactions their children have..
Rodarte suggests parents contact their pediatrician with any questions and concerns.
“Talk to your doctor,” he advised. “Don’t [make your decisions based on] Facebook or Instagram.”