Early demand for under-5 COVID-19 vaccines promising amid rising case numbers, Kansas doctors say

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TOPEKA — As COVID-19 case numbers of approach levels not seen since February, Kansas doctors are encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated.

A month removed from the vaccine receiving emergency use authorization for children younger than 5, Danielle Johnson, a clinical psychologist with the University of Kansas Health System, said many pediatricians’ offices are running out of the shot. She says this is a good sign for demand and critical with more children being infected.

Johnson’s three children, including her 5-year-old daughter, have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“They understood the risks of having COVID, and so we wanted to make sure that we got them as safe as possible,” Johnson said. “They have all their other vaccines. They wear seatbelts when they’re in the car. They wear a helmet on their bicycle. So, we do things to keep them safe and this is another measure to keep them safe.”

Last month, both Moderna and Pfizer received emergency use authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Subsequently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on the vaccination for children younger than 5.

A federal advisory committee determined the benefits of both vaccines outweigh any risks after they were well-tolerated by children who received them during clinical trials. Under the FDA authorization, the Moderna vaccine will consist of two shots, while the Pfizer vaccine consists of three shots.

At Children’s Mercy Hospitals, intensive care units are filling up, particularly with those needing treatment for COVID-19. While children may be infected at a lesser rate, the omicron variant has proven more infectious for young Kansans, making the vaccine approval timing essential, said Ryan Smith, a pediatrician with KU Health System.

He said one sign parents should take comfort in is that children report lesser side effects of the vaccine than adults.

“A big part of that is the vaccine developers being very cautious with the dose they provide to kids because, again, when we’re talking about young people, we need to be very, very cautious to the safety and efficacy,” Smith said. “I think that everything that the vaccine developers have done, it tells me that it’s safe and effective.”

After receiving the vaccine, children must wait 15 minutes to monitor for any severe, but rare, allergic reactions.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has reported 819,675 COVID-19 cases and 8,957 deaths. KDHE recorded 7,346 new cases in the previous week.

Steve Stites, chief medical officer for KU Health System, said heat maps of the country suggest the spread of the virus is accelerating across America. In Kansas, Johnson and Wyandotte counties are both in the red zone, meaning infection protection protocols could be around the corner.

“Remember that we don’t have the same public testing as we had before — so many of the tests are at-home — but in these reported cases, the numbers are reportedly probably four to eight times higher than that across the country,” Stites said. “We may actually have a much larger spike of new cases than we are actually able to measure because public health-wise, we’re not doing (testing).”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

See the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence and Douglas County on The Lawrence Times’ stat dashboard at this link.

Find out where you can get the free COVID-19 vaccine at this link.

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