Following recommendations by federal and state leaders for two COVID-19 vaccines for young children, Oregon Health & Science University experts recommend vaccination as the best way to protect children and their families during the ongoing pandemic.
“Careful and thorough reviews of available clinical trial data show these two COVID-19 vaccines are both effective and safe for children as young as 6 months old. I highly recommend that children get vaccinated as soon as they can,” says Eliza Hayes Bakken, M.D., pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and OHSU School of Medicine.
“There are so many unexpected things that can happen to our children. If we can do something to provide some protection against that uncertainty, we should take advantage of it,” Bakken continued. “The coronavirus still causes too many children to become seriously sick and even die. Vaccinating children remains the best option to protect both our kids and our families.”
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for younger children have received an emergency use authorization and are recommended by the Federal Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.
The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for children 6 months to younger than 5 years old, and the Moderna vaccine is authorized for children 6 months to younger than 6 years old. Other versions of Pfizer vaccine are already available for adults and children older than 5, and another version of the Moderna vaccine has also been authorized for children, adolescents and teenagers 6 and older.
For more information about the newly authorized vaccines, see answers to some commonly asked questions below.
What’s the difference between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines?
Both vaccines are safe and effective, and OHSU Doernbecher pediatricians urge families to have their children vaccinated with whichever brand is available. Vaccinating children remains the best option to protect both kids and families.
The key differences:
- Pfizer is three doses
- Moderna is two doses for most children and three doses for children who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. (See this CDC chart for more info.)
- Moderna reaches the same antibody levels as Pfizer in half the time (eight weeks, versus 13 weeks).
- Each Moderna dose has more active ingredient than each Pfizer dose.
- Having more active ingredient means the Moderna vaccine may be more likely to cause side effects, such as pain at the injection site and fever.
- Pfizer’s vaccine requires more doses with a lower amount of active ingredient so may not cause as many side effects.
- In both trials, side effects were mostly mild and lasted one to two days.
- There were no deaths associated with either vaccine in the trials.
- Serious adverse events were rare, with only one child in each vaccine trial showing a severe reaction.
Ultimately, both vaccines have been found to be safe and effective against symptomatic COVID infections in young children.
Which vaccine is best?
Both vaccines are safe and will lower children’s risk of symptomatic infections. Experts have concluded that both vaccines offer an important layer of protection to decrease children’s risk of severe symptoms, hospitalization and death from COVID. OHSU Doernbecher pediatricians recommend children get the first vaccine available to them.
Caregivers who are unsure should discuss options with their child’s pediatrician.
If children are less likely to have severe COVID, why should they get vaccinated?
Severe illness and death from COVID-19 remain a threat to children, especially the most vulnerable children.
Many caregivers of young children have needed to continue living like it’s March 2020 — when the country went into lockdown to curb the spread of COVID — because of the threat to their children’s health. Nearly 500 children younger than 5 in the U.S. have died of COVID, including eight pediatric deaths in Oregon. Nationwide, COVID is now among the top 10 causes of death in children younger than 5.
Getting children vaccinated provides protection against COVID, meaning fewer disruptions in daycare, at school and in family life.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are safe, effective tools to protect the youngest kids from getting very sick and spreading the virus to others.
OHSU Vaccine Information
Beginning this weekend, OHSU will hold family-friendly vaccination clinics for children younger than 5 at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. Due to expected high demand and to offer families efficiency, the OHSU Doernbecher weekend vaccination clinics will be by appointment only and offer the Moderna vaccine.
Information on how to make an appointment for the OHSU Doernbecher weekend clinics will be shared around noon on Thursday, June 23, on the OHSU COVID-19 Vaccines website. Those who don’t have internet access or need assistance to schedule an appointment in a language other than English can also call 833-647-8222 beginning June 23. Please note: Initial high call volume could result in longer wait times; and, the hotline operates 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
OHSU aims to quickly vaccinate as many children as possible while reducing barriers to vaccine access for children in communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. OHSU will monitor demand and supply during this initial rollout and may offer additional vaccination options for the public in the future. OHSU pharmacies do not plan to offer vaccines for this age group.
Other health systems and some community pharmacies will also offer COVID vaccines for children younger than 5. To explore all COVID vaccination options near you, go to www.vaccines.gov or https://govstatus.egov.com/find-covid-19-vaccine.