Coronavirus vaccinations are now being recommended for children as young as 6 months, per a weekend announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Wyoming Department of Health on Monday.
The recommendations follow Food and Drug Administration authorization of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for young children and infants.
“I encourage Wyoming parents to choose vaccination for their children,” Wyoming Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said in a Monday press release. “We have certainly seen some children become very ill due to the virus and we also know they can spread COVID-19 to others who may be especially vulnerable to the virus and its effects.”
Harrist is encouraging all Wyoming residents 6 months and older to get the vaccine if they haven’t already.
Over the past few years, clinical trials have studied the effect coronavirus vaccines have on young children. Across the country, millions of older children and adults have been safely vaccinated, while globally, around 5 billion to 6 billion doses of the COVID vaccine have been disbursed, said Dr. Mark Dowell, Natrona County health officer.
Dowell said he has treated a number of patients with extended coronavirus symptoms, called “long COVID,” and added he would hate to see the same condition affect a young child.
Dowell is supporting Harrist’s recommendation.
“I think it’s a great thing to do for the kids,” he said. “We’re still learning what COVID might do in the long-term for the kids.”
Harrist said children can receive other vaccines at the same time they receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
Prior to Saturday’s CDC recommendation, the vaccinations had been recommended only for children age 5 and older. The Moderna vaccine made for 6-month-olds to 5-year-olds is a two-dose series, given four weeks apart. The Pfizer vaccine for 6-month-olds to 4-year-olds is a three-dose series. The first two shots are given three weeks apart, and the third one eight weeks after the second shot.
Parents of newly eligible children should contact their local public health office or other medical provider if they are interested in having their children vaccinated. The newly authorized vaccines for young children are in the process of being ordered, shipped and delivered to Wyoming locations.
When these vaccines will arrive throughout Wyoming is hard to tell.
In Uinta County, County Nurse Manager Callie Perkins said there will be some facilities in her county that were to have the vaccines available as early as Monday. In Sublette County, Nurse Manager Janna Lee said health officials do not have a clear idea when the vaccines will be delivered. Natrona County is not scheduled to receive the vaccines until the middle or end of the week.
Lee and Casper-Natrona County Health Department Spokesperson Hailey Bloom also said they have not received much public demand for vaccines for this new, younger age demographic.
“Anything recommended by the CDC and the Wyoming Department of Health, we’re going to follow with basically the same message, the exact same guidance,” Bloom said.
According to the CDC, as of May 28, more than 400 children age 4 and younger have died due to COVID. Although young children have had some of the lowest susceptibility for hospitalization, Dowell said this shouldn’t encourage parents to let their guard down, as the more recent omicron strain of COVID has caused more hospitalizations in children.
“As we move through this pandemic, including at this phase, staying up to date with vaccines remains the best way to reduce our vulnerability to this virus and its most serious effects,” Harrist said.
Dowell said people pointing to the fact Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the president, tested positive for COVID as proof the vaccine doesn’t work are misinformed and haven’t done proper research.
Dowell said the purpose of the vaccines is not to prevent the patient from getting the virus but to minimize the harm the virus causes when it infects a person.
“It prevents you from dying,” he said.
There are a number of rare, but possible, side effects that can come from taking the vaccines including anaphylaxis, thrombosis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, myocarditis, pericarditis and death.
Dowell, who has been vaccinated, said many of the risks one encounters from getting a COVID vaccine are the same as one would experience from getting shots for other viruses such as chicken pox and the flu.
“You have to look at the benefit vs. the risk,” he said. “The benefit is great.
In late May, the CDC also dropped the recommended age for booster shots to children 5 years and older, if eligible.
“Booster doses have become more important over time and are recommended for everyone ages 5 and older, with second booster doses recommended for everyone ages 50 and older,” Harrist said. “Those with certain health conditions that could affect their immunity should ask their healthcare provider whether they should receive additional or booster doses.”