FDA panel recommends COVID-19 vaccines for youngest children, as parents await final decision

Nearly two years after adults began getting vaccinated against COVID-19, Laura Chiang, a Decatur mother of 3, she is grateful her 4-year-old Harper is a step closer to getting her shots.

Wednesday an independent FDA advisory panel votes unanimously to recommend the agency authorize both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children under 5.

"For us, it's just a sigh of relief, when she can get vaccinated, to know that she has that added layer of protection," Chiang says.  "It will just be a huge relief as a parent."

But, for Harper, the shots may be a little too late.

Her older brothers, 10-year-old Jacob and 6-year-old Caleb got vaccinated as soon as they were eligible, right before the holidays.

Last month, still waiting for the FDA to authorize a vaccine for her age group, Harper caught both COVID-19 and parainfluenza, leaving her with a fever for 13 days straight.

"It's like we kind of missed the boat a little bit, because Harper got sick, pretty sick, it would have been amazing to have been vaccinated," her mother says.  "I think things would have gone differently for her.  But, (I'm) still really grateful to have this vaccine."

Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu with Children's Medical Group in Decatur, says her parents are eager to get their toddlers and preschoolers vaccinated.  

Her practice has ordered both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for kids ages 6 months up to 5.

"I think families would like to have the choice or which one to choose," Dr. Shu says.  "So, some children will get the Pfizer, that's going to be 3 doses, that's a tenth of the adult dose, with the schedule being at 0, 3 weeks and 3 months.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-shot series given 4 weeks apart.

"We've had so many parents say they want to be first on the list, they want to know about it, they want to schedule it now, because they're worried we're going to be full," Shu says.  "I've assured them we have plenty of vaccine available, and we will make time to get the children vaccinated."

Many parents may harder to convince. 

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted in April found only 18% of parents of young children say they plan to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

The rest say they either plan to either wait, will not vaccinate, or will do so only if the shots are required.

"I think parents should have questions, because you're making decisions for your children, and you're using the best information you have at any given time," Dr. Shu says.  "And, your pediatrician can help you filter through all the information you've been hearing from many sources."

Harper Chiang is feeling much better, but will likely have to wait until 3 months her COVID-19 infection to get her first shot.

"But, but, I'm still so excited to have the opportunity," Laura Chiang says.  "As soon as it makes the most sense, based on the recommendations, we'll get her vaccinated."