With recent news that Pfizer-BioNTech has delayed its submission of data to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and is possibly considering a 3-dose regimen of the COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months through 4 years of age, you may be wondering if your young child should receive it.
Akron Children’s wants parents to have the latest information as we await final emergency use authorization from the FDA. Critical care physician Dr. Michael Bigham answers COVID-19 vaccine questions and concerns from parents in hopes of building confidence around the vaccine as they make this decision for their children.
How many vaccines has Akron Children’s Hospital administered to date?
We have given more than 80,000 vaccines since the pandemic began. That’s about 2 percent of all of the vaccines given in Ohio.
We continue to have a steady and ongoing demand for the vaccine. As an example, we gave 5,000 vaccines for the month of January, and about three-quarters of those were for kids aged 5 to 11 years old. The last quarter of those kids were aged 12 and older, some of which were booster shots and some were first or second doses.
Can you reassure us that this vaccine, if granted authorization, is a much smaller dose?
Certainly. The dose Pfizer is proposing is much smaller. For example, the adult dose is 30 micrograms, the child dose is 10 micrograms and now the dose it submitted for the youngest children is only 3 micrograms. Unlike adults and children, Pfizer is possibly considering 3 doses of this vaccine for the youngest kids in this emergency use authorization.
However, we won’t know the full details until the FDA has reviewed the data from Pfizer and releases it.
How important would you say is getting your young child vaccinated?
Let me use Akron Children’s to illustrate my answer. If we look at the subset of patients who have been admitted to Akron Children’s and tested positive for COVID-19, 92 percent of those kids, from January 1st of last year until a week ago, have been unvaccinated. That’s only 8 percent who were vaccinated.
Of those 8 percent that were vaccinated and admitted to our hospital, half of them had only one dose. So, I would consider them partially vaccinated. Now, that gets us down to only 4 percent of our admitted patients who tested positive for COVID-19 had been vaccinated.
So, we are still seeing amongst those kids that are hospitalized with COVID-19, some demonstration that the vaccine remains protective for kids.
However, regarding the vaccine for younger children, we need to see what the data shows and then we can give a more informed answer and recommendation. There might be nuances within this data that suggests there are higher or lower risk kids within this young age population.
Are you seeing many parents refusing the vaccine for their children?
As I mentioned, in the month of January, we gave almost 5,000 vaccines in our primary care offices. That for me is pretty compelling because those are the medical homes for these kids. Families are meeting with their pediatricians, where they have an honest and trusting relationship, to understand the pros and cons of the vaccine and then are making the decision whether to vaccinate their children. And, we think that’s a great approach.
There’s a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 in the media and on social media. And, I think there’s real value in having an intimate conversation between families and a health-care provider, who can add a lot of truth to what might be otherwise misinformation. We think many of our families decide to get their children vaccinated based on that trusting and honest conversation with their pediatricians.
Anything else we should know?
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a decline in pediatric COVID-19 cases. That’s really reassuring. We’re still seeing some of those post-COVID MIS-C cases in the hospital, but we expect those to decrease, as well.
We’re excited to review the vaccine details on kids 6 months through 4 years of age and discuss the data once it’s released, and then make that vaccine available if that’s what the FDA recommends.