California children under 5 begin receiving COVID vaccines

Jonah Stein emerged from the vaccination clinic into his father’s arms on Tuesday afternoon, proud to show off his bandage.

This “little sore”, as the 2-year-old said, took a long time to arrive. This marked the spot where he received his first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine – much to the relief of his parents, who also have a 3-week-old child at home.

“We will have a greater level of comfort going out and doing things and knowing when [Jonah is] at daycare he will be less likely to catch it and bring it back to his brother,” said father Nathan Stein, who works as a cardiologist, outside Clinica Medica Fatima in downtown Los Angeles.

Children play on a bridge at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Callum Diaz-Cheng, 3, left, and Aevin Lee, 2, play at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles while waiting with their parents, Dr. Jennifer Su and Dr. Andrew Cheng, for vaccinations on Tuesday. This was the first series of hospital-approved Pfizer vaccines for children 5 years of age and younger.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

Jonah, however, was focused on more immediate concerns; namely, the cookies waiting for him in the car.

Following the recent decision of federal health officials to allow children as young as 6 months old to receive the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Californians can schedule an appointment for their lowest cost.

This decision marks the latest major expansion of the US vaccination campaign against COVID-19, who spat at life in a very limited form in December 2020. Since then, authorities have opened access to vaccines to virtually all Americans, the vast majority of whom have received them.

But until now vaccines for the youngest have remained elusive – leaving many families in the position of having everyone but the baby inoculated.

Erin Acain noted that her 6-year-old daughter was vaccinated eight months ago, but her one-year-old son was only able to get it on Tuesday.

“I feel very relieved,” Acain said, putting his son on his hip. “We’ve been waiting for this for a very long time.”

A nurse gives a young girl an injection

Sofia Espinoza Tam is held by her father, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles pediatrician Dr. Juan Espinoza, while nurse Monica Lopez administers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

There are about 2.2 million Californians under the age of 5 who are now eligible to be vaccinated, according to state health officials.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Secretary of Health and Human Services, called the expansion “an exciting time in our fight against COVID-19.”

“That means the whole family, basically, can be vaccinated,” he said in a video statement. “That means protection against the short-term and long-term consequences of COVID; it means an opportunity to take that summer vacation, send your child to summer camp, send them to a birthday party, get ready for school – things I know a lot of between us have done with a bit of trepidation over the past two years. [It] means that our young people can thrive in the activities that we know make a difference in their lives.

Aevin Lee, 2, sat on his mother’s lap and played with a bumblebee toy as he received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine outside Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.

Afterwards, her mother, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Jennifer Su, presented her with two new toy cars before watching the assortment of news cameras documenting the occasion.

“He didn’t even notice,” Su said, her smile visible even through her mask.

As if to illustrate the point, Aevin ran off to explore a nearby playground.

“It’s important to stand up for what we really think is right,” Su said of vaccines. “We cannot expect people to follow our recommendations if we are unwilling to do so ourselves. I’m more than willing to show others that I would recommend this to anyone.”

A doctor holds a masked child in his arms.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles cardiologist Dr. Jennifer Su checks in on her 2-year-old son Aevin Lee before he receives his first COVID shot on Tuesday.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had already available for ages 5 and up, but Moderna has been adults only until now.

The Moderna offering is given in two doses for younger children, with the injections given a month apart. Each shot is a quarter of the amount of the typical adult dose.

Three injections of Pfizer, each representing 10% of the adult dose, are required, the first two being given three weeks apart and the third at least eight weeks later.

Dr. Pia Pannaraj, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said Tuesday was exciting for her team and the community.

“It’s a great event for families with young children who have been waiting all this time,” Pannaraj said. “We finally have a way to protect them as well.”

Pannaraj said the vaccines have been found to be safe and effective, but children might experience minor side effects, such as pain or redness at the injection site or a slight fever, but these symptoms should go away within 24 hours. .

While some parents are eagerly waiting to get their children vaccinated, it remains to be seen how robust demand will be.

In a survey of the Kaiser Family Foundation published in May, 18% of parents of children under 5 said they planned to have their child vaccinated “right away”, while 38% said they would “wait until see”. However, 27% of survey respondents said they would ‘definitely not’ have their young child vaccinated, and 11% said they would ‘only if necessary’.

According to the report, “the lack of available information may be a factor in parents’ reluctance to vaccinate their youngest children right away. A majority of parents of children under 5 say they do not have enough information about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for children in this age group.

The vaccination campaign for another cohort of children – those aged 5 to 11 – lags behind other groups. Just over a third of Californians in this age group are fully vaccinated, compared to 67% of 12-17 year olds and 78% of 18-49 year olds. according to data compiled by The Times.

A little girl cries as she is held by her mother.

Lennon Roggenbuck, 3, is comforted by his mother Althea Grace after his vaccination.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

Although health officials acknowledge that COVID-19 has generally not hit young people as hard as other age groups, they stress that children are not immune to serious health effects and that vaccines offer valuable protection.

“It’s true that children don’t get as sick as adults, but for children under 5, COVID is still the fifth leading cause of death,” Pannaraj said. “We also know that people who are vaccinated are 10 times less likely to die from COVID than those who aren’t, so it’s very important that we are able to protect young people.”

This remains the case even in the current environment – in which the combination of widespread vaccine coverage, the availability of tests and therapies, and the proliferation of the Omicron variant and its viral progeny have resulted in a surge that, until present, saw many cases but fewer hospitalizations than previous outbreaks of the pandemic.

“For young people, again, they need to realize that while Omicron might not be as severe for everyone overall, it’s definitely a lot more transmissible now, and if they get too low their custody, they’re going to get it. . And for some, it can still be a serious illness,” said UCLA epidemiologist Dr. Robert Kim-Farley.

In a joint statement, Director of the Ghaly and California Department of Public Health and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón noted that “COVID-19 hospitalizations for children under the age of 4 years were five times higher during the Omicron surge than during Delta, and 1 in 5 children hospitalized with COVID-19 were also admitted to intensive care.

“Studies have shown that getting our children vaccinated is the surest way to protect them from the worst consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization, long COVIDmultisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and death,” the statement read. “Getting everyone in our homes and communities vaccinated reduces the chances of the virus spreading to those we love most.”

For some, injections offer more than protection: they provide peace of mind.

“I think we will feel very comfortable doing indoor activities now,” Acain said. “We’ve gone back to most other things, but we don’t dine in restaurants, in general, and avoid anything crowded and indoors.

“We are comfortable now that if someone gets sick we will be able to manage it,” she added.

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