COVID-19 vaccine recommendations in the U.S. have been expanded to include children ages 6 months to age 5 years. The new vaccine recommendations mean children in the under-5 age group can receive a three-dose primary series of the Pfizer vaccine or a two-dose primary series of the Moderna vaccine.
"This age group is one that can't wear a mask or anything else reliably," explains Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases specialist. "And so this is one of the really important layers of protection for them. Vaccinations will help protect the child, the family and the community."
Dr. Paige Partain, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician, says while parents may wonder if getting their young children vaccinated against COVID-19 is necessary, it is important to recognize the benefits.
"When I look at our primary goal, which is keeping kids out of the hospital, keeping them from dying from COVID, we know that vaccines do that very well," explains Dr. Partain. "And we don't have a good way to predict whether your child might be in that small percentage that gets really sick from COVID, so we want to make sure that we give them the best protection. Even for folks that have already had COVID, because the natural immunity that we get from these infections doesn't last as long as we would like. So when we can combine that immunity with the immunity from a vaccine, what we're really doing is giving kids the best protection and the best chance to do well if they do get COVID."
Dr. Partian says the benefits of vaccinating kids younger than 5 goes beyond preventing severe disease and hospitalizations.
"Having our kids vaccinated decreases the chances that they might pass COVID along to someone else, maybe more vulnerable adults that they spend time around or other children under 6 months who aren't old enough to get their vaccine yet."
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Rajapakse and Dr. Partain from the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center join pediatrician and host Dr. Angela Mattke for a discussion on COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 6 months to 5 years.