Q&A With U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in babies, toddlers and younger children: The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has EUA for children 6 months to 4 years old, and the Moderna vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years old.
While some parents are thrilled by this news, others have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for younger children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated against COVID-19. And experts agree that getting vaccinated continues to be critical, especially since the Omicron variant emerged at the end of last year.
What to Expect creator Heidi Murkoff recently sat down with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to discuss some of the most common questions parents have about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids and the best way to keep your little ones safe during this time.
Here are some key points from the conversation:
On why is it so important for babies and children to get the COVID-19 vaccine:
“Here’s what’s important to know — even though kids do better than older adults when it comes to bad outcomes of COVID-19, lower risk doesn’t mean they’re not at risk,” explains Dr. Murthy. “In fact, if we look at the data from the last couple years we’ve seen a couple things very clearly, one is that COVID-19 is not the flu for our young children.
“In fact, we’ve had in the last couple of years nearly 30,000 kids under the age of 5 who have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Sadly, we’ve actually lost hundreds of kids, and these are numbers that are higher than what we typically see with the flu. This tells you just how contagious this virus is and how consequential it can be as well. So that’s why it’s important to protect our children. It’s also important to know that we vaccinate our kids right now for illnesses that are less deadly than COVID-19 because we want to do everything we can to prevent death and illness. This is why the vaccine is such a big deal because it gives us an opportunity to protect our kids against the worst outcomes of COVID-19.”
On how safe the COVID-19 vaccine is for children under 5:
“The good news is we now have high-quality clinical trials for both of the vaccine options for kids under 5, which includes the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines,” says Dr. Murthy.
“There were thousands of children who participated in these trials and were followed for a significant period of time. We learned that the vaccine actually is remarkably safe and the most common side effect was soreness in the arm. Fever, fatigue and irritability are generally symptoms that last for around 24 hours. The other thing they looked at was the antibody levels. Antibodies are those proteins that your body makes to help fight infection, and it turned out that kids who are vaccinated had levels of these neutralizing antibodies that offer protection. So from both standpoints, there was good evidence that these vaccines are safe, effective and help keep kids out of the hospital.“
On whether there’s any difference between the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines:
“We have two options that are both safe and effective that were unanimously approved by both the FDA and CDC,” explains the Surgeon General. “There are some differences between these vaccines: The Moderna vaccine for kids under 5 is a two-dose vaccine ,and it’s a higher dose. It’s about a quarter of the dose of what the adults get. The Pfizer vaccine includes three doses.
“The bottom line is that these are both effective, so it’s okay to get the vaccine that’s available to you at your pediatrician’s office. We now have a way to help make the likelihood that your child ends up in the hospital much much lower and I just want every parent to have the opportunity to give their kids that protection.”
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