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Local doctors address COVID-19 vaccine for kids under the age of 5

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 9:47 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - With the FDA finally giving emergency use authorization to COVID vaccines for children under the age of 5, many in the medical community are expecting a surge in demand and hopefully a decrease in hospitalizations.

Doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital and The University of Kansas Health System this week addressed the development, saying some might be frustrated by how long it took, but how long it took shows that the approval process is thorough.

Between the time adults began getting the COVID vaccine, then teens and kids over the age of 5, until now, there have been 600 million doses given in the United States alone.

“We have great data across those 600 million people that the vaccine is not only well tolerated, it also is efficacious, or it works to prevent disease, severe disease, hospitalization and death,” said Children’s Mercy Hospital Division Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Angela Myers, M.D.

She noted that 8,000 kids aged 6 months to 5 years old were involved in the latest clinical trials, and side effects were similar to adults: localized redness or swelling, sore arms, and muscle aches. She’s well aware that some parents still worry about the possibility of more serious negative side effects.

“About a year ago, there was a lot of concern and worry about myocarditis cases post vaccine in those teenagers and we did see that. We saw a slight increase in those cases in teenagers. We have not seen that in younger children,” Myers assured.

“I think the fears are that we are going to identify something that’s very rare,” speculated Dr. Kevin Ault, M.D.

Ault is an OBGYN at The University of Kansas Health System OBGYN and is on the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. He remarked that the blood clotting associated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine affected one in several hundred thousand people. The myocarditis side effect in teen males, he said, affected one in tens of thousands.

“And we may identify something in children. Based on the safety data we have now, that isn’t a concern, but these first few months we should know for sure because there will be a big roll out,” said Ault.

Meanwhile, Myers pointed out that they’ve seen a shift in who is getting sick enough to be hospitalized. Initially, she said, it was mostly adults. Then there was a rise in hospitalized teens.

“Now, we’re seeing the younger children surpass those other groups in terms of hospitalizations, largely because they are the last group that is unvaccinated,” Myers said.

Both doctors remarked that getting the younger children vaccinated also protects others, particularly those who are elderly or have pre-existing conditions. Myers said, in the early stages of COVID-19 infection, it was mostly adults giving it to kids. Now, she said, it is clear kids are also giving it to adults.

The Pfizer COVID-19 pediatric vaccine is authorized for children ages 6 months to 4 years in three doses, with a three-week interval between the first two doses, followed by a third dose at least eight weeks after the second dose. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is authorized to be given to children 6 months to 5 years in two doses with 28 days between the two doses.

Children’s Mercy has clinics at two locations starting this weekend. The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has walk-in clinics starting on Monday.

Below is information about each of those.

Children’s Mercy Hospital Vaccine Clinic:

  • Ages 6 months to 4 years old only
  • Pfizer vaccine. Will require three doses. The second will be three weeks after the first dose and the third will be two months after the second dose.
  • Appointments needed
  • Saturday, June 25, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas, 5808 W. 110th St in Overland Park
  • Saturday, July 9, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Children’s Mercy Hospital Adele Hall Campus, 2401 Gilham Rd in Kansas City
  • Self-scheduling is available on the MyChildrensMercy patient portal or call the COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Hotline at 816-302-6300

Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Vaccination Clinics:

  • Free pediatric vaccinations
  • Walk-in clinics in Olathe and Mission
  • Beginning Monday, June 27, in Olathe and Mission

Both organizations also suggest contacting your child’s pediatrician or looking for additional locations on vaccines.gov

Related coverage:

Children’s Mercy to offer COVID vaccine clinics for children under 5 years old

Children’s Mercy offering vaccine clinics for ages 6 months to 4 years old. Here’s how to sign up.