Many parents of children below 5 years old could not have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine sooner. Since shots were first made available for adults, it has been nearly a year and a half since they have been waiting.
Pfizer-BioNTech shots as well as Moderna shots were approved by the administration for almost 20 million U.S. children aged 6 to 4. The FDA advisory panel unanimously recommended the shots after much anticipation.
The shots must be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This should happen in a matter of days.
The following collection includes articles from The Conversation’s archives. This article traces the development of COVID-19 vaccines for young children. The article describes the COVID-19 journey, from the beginning of clinical trials through to the practical challenges in helping children overcome their anxiety about getting shots.
1. “Kids do not have to be smaller adults.”
The summer of 2021 saw a rise in the delta variant. Children under 12 years of age waited anxiously to receive a COVID-19 shot. The vaccine was approved by the FDA for children 5-11 years old in October 2021. The FDA required vaccines to be approved for children under 5 years of age.
Judy Martin, a University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences lecturer, discussed the long and complex clinical studies that are required to approve vaccines for children. Martin spoke about how infant brains, immune systems, and other characteristics are different from those of older children. This is how it is considered in vaccine development, clinical trials, and safety assessment.
2. You get a shot. What now?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made many obscure terms in biology, such as mRNA or spike protein, commonplace terms. Despite all the discussion about vaccines, very few people understand what happens to their bodies after a vaccine is administered.
A 12-year-old boy was curious about the conversation and asked it this question. Glenn J. Rapsinski, a University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences pediatric infectious disease expert, answers this question. In our Curious Kids series, we asked him to answer this question. This is a question that children and adults can both understand.
When the COVID-19 vaccine molecules come in contact, the body activates complex and coordinated reactions. This is similar to the SARS virus. It’s a lot like an elaborate construction zone. These cells alert the body to intruders and recruit helpers.
Rasinski stated that all of these important processes occur within the body. This could indicate that there are some problems beneath the skin. After the shot, your arm might feel tender. Your arm may feel sore after the shot. This is because immune cells like the T-cells and dendritic B-cells rush to your arm to investigate the threat. The body responds to a perceived threat by activating its B-cells, T-cells, and a complex chorus of cells when it encounters an actual SARS virus or a vaccine. Victorine/iStock via Getty Images Plus
3. You can train your immune system
As clinical trials for COVID-19 shots were concluded in 2022, the omicron version gained popularity in the U.S. While COVID-19 isn’t a serious illness in children, hospitalizations for children younger than five years have increased dramatically due to the increased transmissibility.
Debbie-Ann Shirley, a pediatrician at The University of Virginia, specializes in infectious disease. In March 2022, she wrote about the tedious task of running clinical trials in each age group sequentially.
Shirley explained that vaccines can have many influences on how they work in our bodies. Shirley stated that age is just one factor. This helps us understand how vaccines affect different age groups. It is common to give vaccines to children in series. This helps the immune system build stronger and more powerful antibodies.
4. The question of the inevitable booster shot
An increasing number of data points from children, adolescents, and adults showed that the immunity to COVID-19 and vaccines was declining over time. But, vaccination continues to provide a strong defense against severe COVID-19 that can lead to hospitalization. In May 2022, the CDC recommended a booster vaccination for children aged 5-11 years old.
Infants and preschoolers will both receive COVID-19 shots the same way. Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots for children younger than 5 years are available. They come in a three-dose package. Moderna is still testing the final dose. Shirley shared a screenshot from the May 2022 studies and explained how researchers had concluded that the third shot was safe.
5. Helping children overcome their fear of shots
Many parents have had to wait a long time for COVID-19 vaccinations. Lynn Gardner, an associate professor of pediatrics at Morehouse Schools of Medicine and a primary-care physician, has helped thousands of children and parents deal with the fears that can sometimes arise in the doctor’s chair.
Gardner spoke of the “Three Ps”, which she called preparation and proximity. She also praised. These are the things parents and caregivers can do to make their children feel less anxious about shots and have a more positive experience.
She said that it was important to get your child’s thoughts on getting a shot. You can help reduce anxiety and stress by giving your child the opportunity to express their feelings. It is possible to validate their feelings by telling them that although needles may be frightening, they can handle them. You can explain to them why they are getting vaccines and emphasize that it is for their benefit.