The long-awaited day for many parents of very young children has arrived. Children of all ages from six months on up are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Here’s what parents need to know:
How do I make an appointment?
Riley Children’s Health announced Monday that the hospital system has received Moderna vaccine for this age group and will be scheduling appointments during evenings and Saturdays at five primary care locations starting this week.
Appointments will be required and will be able to made through the ourshot.in.gov website or by call 211. However as of Monday neither the call line nor the website had updated to allow for scheduling.
Riley Health officials said in an email that more information would be forthcoming and encouraged parents to periodically check the website to make an appointment.
Pharmacies will not vaccinate children younger than three, so parents of the youngest children will need to go to their pediatrician or a health department clinic to have their child vaccinated.
Older children are eligible to be vaccinated at community pharmacies.
Why did it take so long to get a vaccine for young children?
About a year and a half ago the first vaccines were approved for adults. Approval for a vaccine for and then children ages 5 to 11 years followed.
But finding just the right dose for the youngest children proved a little more challenging. Pfizer, which until now was the only company to have a vaccine approved for people under 18, has been testing a vaccine for more than a year but had to add a third dose to the regimen after earlier studies suggested two doses did not provide sufficient protection against omicron.
How many vaccines are approved for young children?
When older children were first eligible to be vaccinated against COVID, the government had only approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for anyone younger than 18. Last week though the FDA approved both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine for children six months and up, giving all children over six months of age the same option as their parents.
What’s the difference between the two vaccines?
The Pfizer vaccine, about one-tenth the dose that adults receive, is a three-shot series, with the second shot coming three weeks after the first and the third eight weeks or more after the second.
The Moderna vaccine, about one-quarter the strength of what adults receive, is a two shot series separated by four weeks.
The Moderna vaccine was about 51% effective at preventing illness in children six months to two years old. The vaccine was about 37% effective in preventing disease in children ages two through five years of age.
Pfizer officials said the effectiveness of their vaccine for children was comparable to that for older people. Early studies suggest that it reduces the risk of COVID by about 80%, after all three doses have been administered.
Can I mix and match vaccines?
At this time that is not being recommended, said Dr. Sarah Bosslet, Riley Children’s Health Director of Primary Care, last week on a press call about vaccines. Doctors advise parents to start with one series and then finish it.
Which one should my child get?
If you’re not sure of which one to get and have specific concerns, consult your regular pediatrician. Otherwise, health officials recommend that children receive whichever vaccine they can get.
Can the vaccine cause side effects?
Just as with adults, the vaccine can lead to soreness at the injection site, fever, malaise, and aches.
If your child has a fever, is vomiting or is otherwise ill, it’s best to put off getting the vaccine until he or she has recovered, experts say.
Do health officials expect high vaccination rates for this age range?
Health officials say they hope that parents consider getting their children vaccinated. COVID infections and exposures can lead daycares or preschools to close or keep parents out of work at home with sick children.
Indiana statistics suggest, however, that parents have not rushed to vaccinate their older children.
Just over one in five Indiana children age 5 to 11 is fully vaccinated, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. Children in this age range have been eligible for vaccine since the fall.
About 44% of youth ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated. They have been eligible for vaccine since spring 2021.
Will there be boosters?
Almost definitely, experts predict.
This story will be updated as more information about scheduling becomes available.