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COVID-19 vaccines for infants and toddlers could soon be available. Experts want families to prepare

Kids ages five and older have been able to get vaccinated since November. But it's taken longer for drug makers to figure out an ideal dose for infants and toddlers. (Stephanie Colombini/ WUSF Public Media)

Federal health officials could authorize COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than five later this week. If they do, health experts say families should act quickly.

Doctors and public health experts suggest families with young children should make plans to get them vaccinated against the coronavirus.

A committee of independent experts with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to decide whether to recommend authorizing vaccines for kids six months to five years-old.

Infants and toddlers could potentially receive three low doses from Pfizer or two from Moderna.

The latest data from Pfizer shows its three dose regimen is 80% effective at preventing illness from omicron, higher than Moderna. But both are safe and good at protecting against severe disease.

If either vaccine is approved, Donald Schwarz, senior vice president of program with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said families should act quickly.

“What’s being predicted is another big surge [in COVID cases], potentially in the fall. We don’t want children to be harmed,” Schwarz said. “We know that we’ve had 1,200 children or more who’ve died from COVID. We don’t want any more children in this country to die from COVID needlessly.”

A May survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found only one-in-five parents of young children planned to get them vaccinated right away once authorized for this age group.

Schwarz urges families to talk to trusted health professionals and others knowledgeable about vaccines to combat misinformation spread on social media and in the community.

Working parents can also have a hard time taking off to get their kids vaccinated, Schwarz added, and said it’s important to remove barriers.

“We also want to make sure that everybody from pharmacies to schools to recreation centers takes this on seriously, particularly over the summer, and provides more opportunities for parents to have their children immunized at convenient hours,” he said.

Even though young kids may have lower chances of getting severe COVID-19 than adults, they also have fewer options when it comes to preventing it.

Wearing masks isn’t advised for infants younger than two, and oral antiviral treatments like Paxlovid are not authorized for kids under 12.

Schwarz said vaccines are safe and simple tools to reducing the risk of infection and hopes all families with young children take advantage of the opportunity to get them once they become available.

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