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What CT parents need to know about young children’s COVID vaccinations

Mikaela Coady, a physician assistant with Priority Urgent Care of Ellington, fills a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at St. Bernard Church in the Rockville section of Vernon.
Mikaela Coady, a physician assistant with Priority Urgent Care of Ellington, fills a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at St. Bernard Church in the Rockville section of Vernon.

As Connecticut rolls out COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 6 months to 5 years, the Connecticut Mirror asked parents what questions they have about the vaccination.

We gathered a few of the most commonly asked questions and spoke to doctors and state health officials. Here’s what they said.

Where can my child get the vaccine?

Hundreds of the state’s pediatric practices are enrolled to administer the vaccines to young children. Most clinics are either providing the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine — very few are providing both, said Dr. Manisha Juthani, commissioner of the Department of Public Health.

For kids whose pediatricians aren’t providing the vaccine, some pharmacies are also providing it. But parents should call ahead of time because different pharmacies may have different age limits, Juthani said.

Some local health department offices and health systems are also providing vaccinations.

The Department of Public Health is also distributing the vaccine through its mobile Yellow Van Clinics. More information about where the vaccine is available is online.

The process for young children will be similar to that for other age groups. It shouldn’t take long, and kids will need to be monitored for 15 minutes afterward, doctors said.

What is the difference between the shots?

The Pfizer-BioNTech for children under 5 is a three-dose series at 3 micrograms per dose. The amount for adults is 30 micrograms in each of two doses. For children 5 to 11, it’s 10 micrograms per dose.

The Moderna vaccine is 100 micrograms in each of two doses for ages 12 years and up, 50 micrograms in two doses for ages 6 to 11 years, and 25 micrograms in two doses for ages 6 months to 5 years.

The Pfizer shot’s efficacy was about 80% in preventing symptomatic infection in trials, while the Moderna vaccine was about 51% effective in 6 month-olds to 2 year olds and 37% effective among those 2 to 5, according to Yale Medicine.

The first two doses of Pfizer are given three weeks apart and at least two months before the third dose. Moderna doses are administered about 28 days apart.

What are the side effects?

Side effects for young children are likely to be similar to other vaccinations, Juthani said.

Soreness at the injection site, fever and general aches may occur, said Dr. Juan Salazar, executive vice president and physician-in-chief at Connecticut Children’s. Guardians can give their children Tylenol to reduce the symptoms.

Trials for the vaccines had no cases of myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle, according to a Yale Medicine article.

For children who are too young to verbalize what they’re feeling, parents can watch for changes in behavior such as decreased eating habits, increased restlessness, lethargy or decreased interest in their surroundings for babies, said Dr. Lucia Benzoni, a pediatrician at Hartford HealthCare.

Benzoni added that if parents are concerned about the symptoms, they should contact their pediatrician.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Health officials and doctors interviewed said that the benefits outweigh the risks.

“My recommendation is go ahead and get vaccinated as soon as you can,” Salazar said. “Avoid the possibility of a kid coming into the hospital, or if they’re very sick, going into the ICU.”

He added that while young children are at less risk than adults, there have been COVID deaths and hospitalizations among children.

“This is why we have a list of vaccines that children get immunized for before they go to school, before they start interacting with a lot of other people,” Juthani said. “And we try to get rid of these infections from circulating in our society.”

Juthani added that the vaccine provides better and more durable immunity for kids who have had COVID.

If children have pre-existing conditions, and parents are concerned about the vaccine, they should consult their pediatricians, Juthani said.

Will kids need boosters?

Juthani said, based on what’s happened with other age groups, it’s likely that young children will need to get boosters.

She added that the public will likely need to get used to the idea of being up-to-date on their COVID vaccinations, meaning they’ll need regular boosters.

“I think we’re going to be more transitioning to this idea of being up to date in your vaccine statuses for COVID,” Juthani said.

What is the demand like?

Benzoni said there are already parents interested in getting their children vaccinated.

Salazar also said there will likely be additional demand before school starts in the fall.

“I think we know, in general, that there are probably about a third of parents who have been waiting and eager to get their children vaccinated, and with every initial vaccine rollout and approval that we’ve seen, there’s usually a rush in the beginning for those people who’ve just been waiting and waiting for the vaccine to be available for their children,” Juthani said.

There are likely some who will wait to see how others do with the vaccine, she added.

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