This weekend, the CDC endorsed the recommendation from its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that children ages 6 months to 5 years be vaccinated against COVID-19 with either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna pediatric COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children) and long-term complications, such as ‘long COVID,’ in which symptoms can linger for months. Throughout the pandemic, there have been 8,457 cases of COVID-19 in North Dakotan children 6 months through 4 years old, 62 children were hospitalized, and one child sadly passed away. Nationally, about half of those hospitalized in this age group had no underlying medical conditions and almost a quarter required admission to the intensive care unit (ICU).
“The North Dakota Department of Health has ordered and will receive 5,700 pediatric COVID-19 doses from the federal government,” said NDDoH Immunization Program Director Molly Howell. “Now that the FDA has authorized and CDC has recommended this vaccine for this age group, the vaccine will be available at over 100 healthcare provider offices throughout the state, including local public health, pediatric, family practice clinics and pharmacies. Healthcare providers are in the process of educating staff and updating protocols, so most providers will begin vaccinating children later this week or early next week.”
“COVID-19 vaccination in older age groups continues to provide excellent protection against severe disease and death, and it is anticipated that this will also be true for younger children,” said Immunization Director, Molly Howell. “Many parents of young children have been waiting to have COVID-19 vaccine available. Vaccine has been made widely available in our state and no individual, including children, should face barriers receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations.”
Both pediatric vaccines are smaller doses than the adult dose. The Pfizer vaccine is a three-dose series over the course of 3 months and the Moderna vaccine is a 2-dose series over the course of 1 month. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild. The most common side effects were irritability and pain at the injection site. COVID-19 vaccines have undergone – and will continue to undergo – the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.
“Parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s healthcare provider, local public health nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and explore their benefits and risks,” said Howell. “It is also important that all North Dakotans ages 5 and older receive at least one booster dose. Those who are immunocompromised or 50 and older should receive a second booster dose. Due to waning immunity and changes in the COVID-19 virus, booster doses are necessary to provide protection against severe illness.”
Information about COVID-19 vaccine providers and clinics near you can be found on the NDDoH COVID Vaccine Locator page. Individuals can also contact the NDDoH Public Health Hotline at 1-866-207-2880 for questions related to COVID-19 and for assistance in scheduling a vaccine appointment.