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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics are officially recommending COVID-19 vaccines for children ages six months to five years old. We’ve been waiting for this announcement for a long time — so what does it mean for our littlest patients? Dr. Monica Brané, Bassett Healthcare Network’s Chief of Pediatrics, shares some of the most important things parents need to know about this important milestone in our fight against the pandemic.

1. Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for such young children?

The vaccines are absolutely safe. As a mother and pediatrician, I recommend the COVID-19 vaccines wholeheartedly for children ages six months and older. Protecting our kids against COVID-19 infection is very important, and it’s also one of the most responsible things we can do for our communities as we continue to work together to fight this virus.

2. How can I book an appointment for my child's COVID-19 vaccine at Bassett Healthcare Network locations?

Parents are encouraged to call their child’s pediatric clinic to schedule a vaccination appointment, or request an appointment online with their child’s primary care practitioner through MyBassett Health Connection

3. Which vaccines are being given to children in this youngest age group?

Both the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines are available for young children.

The Moderna vaccine requires two doses 1 month apart and can be given to children ages six months old through five years old.

Pfizer requires three doses and can be given to children ages six months old through four years old. The first two doses are given 3 weeks apart, and the third dose is given at least 8 weeks after the second dose.

4. How come the CDC is recommending only two doses for Moderna, but three doses for Pfizer?

When studied, both of these vaccine dosing schedules provided similar antibody responses in children to those seen in adults. Moderna is currently studying the possibility of adding a third dose of vaccine for children in this age group, so an additional dose of Moderna vaccine may be added in the future. The greatest amount of protection comes two weeks after the last dose in the series.

5. Which one should I choose for my child?

Both Moderna and Pfizer offer safe, effective immunizations for children against COVID-19. There is no recommendation for one over the other, so we recommend getting whichever is most readily available for your child.

6. Are the vaccine compositions for these younger kids different than what is given to older kids and adults?

Vaccine dosages are much smaller in children. Babies and young kids do not need as much as older children and adults (the same as with medications, like Tylenol). Dosages are determined after careful, extensive research and testing so that you can be sure the vaccines have just the right amount of dosage for each age group.

7. Why did it take so long for CDC officials to give the go-ahead for younger children?

Clinical trials to research the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in children take some time. Researchers put the vaccines through rigorous safety testing. Children are a unique population — their bodies are growing, as well as their immune systems. Clinicians need to make sure immunizations are in line with kids’ ages — dosages in studies are started at a very low level and are increased gently as researchers make sure they’re just right. The youngest children are also typically the very last age group of everyone to get approved for vaccines — it’s not unusual.

8. Are there any kids who should not get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Anyone who has a history of a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components should not receive the vaccine. Speak to your trusted pediatrician to discuss which options are best for your child.

9. What if my child already had COVID-19?

Even if your child was infected with COVID-19, Bassett Healthcare Network still recommends getting them vaccinated so they can build the best protection. Natural immunity from infection does fade over time, so vaccines provide an extra safeguard that lasts much, much longer.

10. Will children experience side effects from COVID-19 vaccines?

They may, yes. Side effects tend to be very mild and only last for a day or two. Kids might experience similar effects as those we have seen in older children and adults — a slightly sore arm, body aches, feeling tired, or a low-grade fever. Again, these symptoms typically only last about a day and are a good sign that our bodies are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing to set our immune systems in action to provide future protection.

If you have other questions or wish to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for children six months old to five years old, visit the CDC’s website or the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website for more resources and information. Speak to your pediatrician or family practitioner about specific questions or concerns you may have. We’re all in this together — let’s get our families vaccinated and protected!

Dr. Monica Brané is Chief of Pediatrics at Bassett Healthcare Network. She practices at Oneonta Health Center (125 Main Street).