COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 0 to 5: What parents need to know
Vaccine timeline for kids under 5 and what parents can do in the meantime
As children ages 5 and older have begun getting vaccinated against COVID-19, parents of young kids may be feeling increasingly impatient about when their little ones might get their turn for vaccination.
Here, Dr. Jonathan Auth, a CHOC pediatrician, explains the current timeline for vaccine availability for children younger than 5 and offers some reassurance to their worried parents.
When will kids younger than 5 years be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
It’s possible sometime between April and September of 2022. After announcing last month that it would adjust its clinical trials for children ages 6 months to 5 years to include three doses instead of two, Pfizer – the manufacturer of the only vaccines authorized for people younger than 18 years at this time – said it would expect to be ready to submit its data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization consideration in the first half of 2022.
Is there any silver lining to this longer timeline?
We know this is hard for parents of young children to hear. On top of protecting your children, you’ve been waiting for a long time for these vaccines to be available. The good news though is that this timeline will mean added assurance that when the vaccine is available to younger children, not only will it work, but they will also be extraordinarily safe.
What can parents do in the meantime to protect younger children while they wait for the vaccine?
The best thing to do is surround young children with people who have been fully vaccinated, as well as boosted, if eligible, against COVID-19.
In addition, keep doing what you’ve been doing all along to keep your children safe:
- teach your children over age 2 how to appropriately wear a mask, and wear high-quality and well-fitted masks in public spaces and when around people from outside your household;
- wash hands frequently and thoroughly;
- limit your activities to open spaces without crowds;
- stay home when sick; and
- ensure you and your children are current on all vaccines they are eligible for, especially this year’s influenza vaccine.
I feel like I am starting to lose steam as I wait to get my young child vaccinated. Do you have any words of reassurance for me and my family?
I understand completely. Nearly two years into the pandemic, parents around the world are burnt out after shouldering so much uncertainty, decision making and sacrifices. Please keep going. You’re a superhero and you’re doing a great job.
Recent data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) show that nearly 8.5 million pediatric COVID-19 cases have been reported since the pandemic’s beginning, but nearly 11 percent of those cases were added between Dec. 23, 2021, and Jan. 6, 2022. In total, children represent 17.4 percent of all COVID cases since the pandemic’s beginning.
As of Jan. 6, 747 children have died in the United States from COVID-19, representing 0.1 percent of total COVID deaths and 0.01 percent of pediatric COVID-19 cases.
Even one child’s death is too many though. This is why we urge vigilance against COVID-19 and full vaccination, once eligible. Most children who contract COVID-19 will become infected by other adult family members. So, protecting yourself and providing a cocoon around our kids is one of the most successful strategies for protecting our youngest children who are unable to be vaccinated. Additionally, schools and child care centers are doing a tremendous job of ensuring these environments are safe.
We will get there – just hold on a bit longer.
Are there any practical things I can do to make the wait easier on me mentally?
Remember that no one can pour from an empty cup. Take time for yourself, and try these practices suggested by CHOC pediatric psychologists to help prevent burnout:
- Build self-care into your routine. This can be simple like making and enjoying your morning coffee; taking the dog on a walk; or paying attention to what you notice when looking out the window.
- Exercise consistently. Try taking a walk around the neighborhood; going on a family hike; riding bikes; taking stretch breaks; or taking the stairs. With any choice, the length of time is less important than consistency.
- Prioritize sleep. Irritability, anxiety and decreased focus are all side effects of sleep deprivation. Aim for seven to eight hours a night of sleep and be consistent with sleep and wake times.
- Cut yourself some slack. Reframe your goals to reduce pressure. We all need a little more grace these days.
- Rely on your support system. Reach out to family, friends and neighbors for help when you need it.
- Reduce media consumption. Increased media consumption has led to increased anxiety and depression. Schedule time away from devices and news.
- Reflect on yourself. Get into the habit of rating how you are feeling mentally on a one-to-10 scale. Track this and make changes if you need to.
Everything parents need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens from the pediatric experts at CHOC