Claim: The COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children as young as six months of age and is safe for children.
Rating: This claim is TRUE. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine for children as young as six months old. These vaccines were tested in clinical trials involving thousands of children, with zero serious side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all eligible children 6 months old or older be vaccinated.
On June 19, 2022, new COVID-19 vaccines were approved for use in children as young as six months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for all eligible children 6 months old or older, with exceptions for children who have compromised immune systems. Children who have had COVID-19 should also be vaccinated. This means that nearly 20 million additional children can be vaccinated.
Parents can choose to vaccinate their children with the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine. The biggest difference between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are that Moderna is a two shot series and Pfizer requires three shots to be considered fully vaccinated.
Data from the trials showed the effectiveness of both Pfizer and Moderna in reducing COVID-19 infections with symptoms. They are also highly effective in preventing serious illness from COVID-19.
What are the potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in young children?
The two vaccines were separately tested in clinical trials that involved thousands of children, with zero serious side effects observed in either group. Side effects for both vaccines were overwhelmingly mild, with fever as the most common side effect, as it is for all vaccines in general.
The primary concern that parents of older children have with the COVID-19 vaccination is the very small chance of heart inflammation (myocarditis and pericarditis) in teenagers, which has been both very unlikely and very mild relative to the risk of COVID-19 in the community. For the COVID-19 vaccine for young children, no known cases of heart inflammation have been observed.
Is COVID-19 a risk to young children?
The other concern parents have in giving children a relatively new vaccine is that they believe risks from COVID-19 infection are low. While it is true that serious illness from COVID-19 is very unlikely with children, over 500 children under 5 have died of COVID-19 in the United States. And the majority of COVID-related hospitalizations for children are also in this age group; half of the hospitalized children were healthy until they were infected with COVID-19.
The latest Omicron variant of COVID-19 also has a five times higher hospitalization rate for young children than earlier variants.
What are the other reasons parents should vaccinate their children?
As new variants of COVID-19 are emerging, vaccination is useful in protecting against illness and spread of the virus. It also helps stop new COVID-19 variants from emerging.
When everyone is vaccinated against a disease, they help protect those at greater risk of illness, including the unvaccinated, older people, and people with weaker immune systems.
Also, schools and businesses are affected by public health. If a child catches COVID-19, they have to miss school. Vaccinations allow kids to safely attend school and prevent new COVID-19 infections so their learning isn’t disrupted.
The two vaccines approved for young children, from Pfizer and Moderna, are mRNA based vaccines. These mRNA vaccines use temporary genetic material that allows the body to use its own processes to generate proteins that train the immune system to fight and recognize COVID-19, giving the body an immediate response on any potential exposure, where an unvaccinated person can take days or weeks to mount an effective immune response. This mRNA is consumed by the body when used and does not linger or get copied.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of June 8, 2022, more than 23 million children ages 5 to 17 have received two doses of a COVID vaccine. But 26 million have not been vaccinated. The recommendation from the overwhelming majority of pediatric infectious disease specialists is to vaccinate children now to protect them from serious illness and death.