Over at the Children's Medical Clinic of Santa Barbara, Ashley Percin, RN, is fielding many questions from parents about the newly approved COVID vaccines for children ages 6 months to 4 years old. | Credit: Courtesy

A good number of parents are already queuing up to schedule their tiny kids for the COVID vaccines, newly made available for children as young as six months old. Over at the Children’s Medical Clinic of Santa Barbara, the question they were getting from parents was about the best vaccine to get before they headed out for summer vacation, said Ashley Percin, RN, who handles everything COVID for the clinic. “We’ve noticed Pfizer takes longer to go into effect,” she said, as Pfizer is a three-dose regimen over three months. “Moderna is two doses,” she noted, “and goes into effect a week after getting the second dose,” which is four weeks after the first.

The Children’s Medical Clinic is among the first to receive the special smaller doses for kids, having ordered early, Percin said. It will also be available at County Public Health’s clinics this week, said spokesperson Jackie Ruiz, and at pediatrician offices around Santa Barbara County.

When children come to the clinic with coughs and congestion, said Percin, they do a COVID test and also a respiratory panel: “It’s summer-camp time,” she said. “Kids are all in one place, swimming, changing. It’s the common cold more often than not, although COVID mimics a cold in many ways.”

As for the necessity of vaccinating small children against a disease that seemed at first equivocal in infecting them, the county’s health officer, Dr. Henning Ansorg, pointed out that 2 million cases of COVID had affected the age 5-and-under cohort in the U.S., resulting in about 20,000 hospitalizations and 200 deaths. “There have been a disproportionate number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths among African-American, Hispanic-Latino, and Native American children in this age group,” he noted.

Pfizer can be given to children ages 6 months to 4 years and is a three-shot regime over 12 weeks at a dose one-tenth of that for adults. The Moderna vaccine can now be used for ages 6 months to 17 years, as the vaccine had previously been approved for adult use only. Moderna requires two shots over four weeks, each one-quarter the amount given to adults. The two vaccines’ efficacy data is somewhat different, and the trials were relatively small: 4,800 in the Moderna group and 1,000 in Pfizer’s. By the third shot — not unlike adult booster shots — Pfizer gave an immune response in the 80th percentile, while Moderna’s was 50 percent for the group younger than 2 years old, and 36 percent for 2- to 5-year-olds. In the wings are boosters both companies are developing for the Omicron variant.

Side effects among the children in the trials included those often noted for vaccination, such as soreness, fever, and irritability, but the benefits substantially outweighed the risks, according to the CDC. “Immunization can be expected to reduce the numbers of COVID-19-related serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in infants and young children, while facilitating their participation in normal educational, social, and recreational activities,” said Ansorg.

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