Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Getting Covid Shots in the Littlest Arms Might Not Be That Easy

Getting Covid Shots in the Littlest Arms Might Not Be That Easy

Monday, 28 March, 2022 - 04:45

Amid the monthslong roller coaster of updates about the efficacy and anticipated availability of a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for younger children, we have a new development: Moderna announced this week that it will submit the results of a two-dose vaccine trial for children ages 6 months to under 6 years for Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization.

It’s looking as though Moderna might be only moderately effective in preventing infection, particularly from a highly contagious variant like Omicron, in kids under 6 — which was the case for kids 5 to 11 who received the Pfizer vaccine in a study conducted in New York State. But initially, at least, it appears that one difference between Moderna’s results and Pfizer’s is in terms of the immune response generated. As The Times’s Sharon LaFraniere put it:

Moderna’s two-dose regimen achieved better results than Pfizer’s in boosting the immune systems of young children. Pfizer said in December that after two doses of its vaccine, children aged 6 months to 2 produced antibody levels comparable to those of older teenagers and young adults.

But children ages 2 through 4 produced only 60 percent of the sought-after antibody response. After two doses of Moderna’s vaccine, the antibody response of children in both subsets compared favorably to that of people 18 to 25, meeting the trial’s primary criterion for success.

And according to Moderna, no children in its trial experienced severe illness or hospitalization or died.

Honestly, sorting through all of this information is incredibly confusing, even for me, and I have been covering this for months, speaking to quite a few infectious-disease pediatricians along the way. If my children were still under 5, I wouldn’t hesitate to get them vaccinated, because I’m generally very confident about vaccine safety. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been tracking vaccine attitudes and uptake over time, in February, 21 percent of parents with children under 5 shared my faith in these shots and were ready and willing to get a vaccine for their kids immediately after it is approved. (This is down from 31 percent in January.)

But I’m concerned about that other 79 percent. I worry that the level of confusion among many parents and the underwhelming vaccine efficacy among little kids reported for both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s will lead to continued vaccine skepticism when shots are finally rolled out for little kids — even more than when older kids were first able to get shots.

As of March 1, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that most parents are not confident that the vaccines are safe for kids 5 to 11 and fewer than a third are confident that vaccines are safe for kids 6 months to 5 years. Parents of the littlest children say they don’t have enough information about the vaccines:

A majority of parents of children under 5 say they don’t have enough information about the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5 (57 percent). On the other hand, majorities of parents of children ages 12-17 and 5-11, groups that have already received F.D.A. authorization for Covid-19 vaccines, say they have enough information about the safety of vaccines for their age groups — with 66 percent parents of kids ages 12-17 saying they have enough information and 61 percent parents of kids ages 5-11.

It may just take time, effort from pediatricians and trusted community members, and the release of vaccines for younger kids before more parents are reassured. This is supported by the number of older kids who’ve been vaccinated, with 61 percent of parents saying their 12-to-17-year-olds have received at least one vaccine dose as of January, compared to 49 percent in November, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But as the months tick by, the information remains muddled and the efficacy appears less than fantastic, I have growing concerns about a smooth vaccine rollout among the majority of little ones.

The New York Times

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks