A young child sitting in a doctor's office and someone putting a bandaid on their left arm.
Illustration: PGN

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What you need to know

  • Vaccines for kids under 5 could become available as early as June if things go as planned. 
  • Both Moderna and Pfizer have announced that data shows that their vaccines for this youngest age group are effective.
  • COVID-19 tools like masks and treatments are available to help protect this youngest age group as we await pediatric vaccines.

The Omicron wave had a huge impact on children—at its peak, more than 1.15 million children were infected in a week. Parents of kids under 5 have been growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of COVID-19 vaccines for this youngest age group, the only population not yet eligible to get immunized. But vaccines may finally be available for kids under 5 in June, according to the FDA.

How much longer until kids under 5 are eligible to get vaccinated? 

Vaccines for kids under 5 could become available as early as June if things go as planned. The FDA’s outside advisory committee is scheduled to meet on June 15 to discuss Moderna and Pfizer’s emergency use authorization requests for their pediatric vaccines.

Receiving a recommendation from the FDA advisory committee is the first step in the authorization process. After that, the vaccines will have to receive recommendations from the CDC’s outside advisory committee as well as CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Why has the authorization process taken so long?

The authorization process was not able to move forward because vaccine manufacturers did not submit their clinical trial data for the vaccines until recently. Moderna was able to request FDA authorization in April for its vaccine for kids under 6 after announcing that its clinical trial data showed that children’s antibody response compared favorably with that of adults ages 18 to 25. 

Pfizer’s authorization process was delayed when its two-dose vaccine data did not meet expectations and the company started testing a third dose. Pfizer announced in late May that its third dose for kids under 5 appeared to be safe and produced a strong immune response. The company is expected to finish submitting trial data to the FDA before June, just in time for the FDA advisory committee meeting.

How can we protect this youngest age group before vaccines become available?

There are a number of tools at hand that can help keep kids safe before they become eligible for a vaccine. For kids ages 2 and older, parents should consider pediatric masks that fit snugly and comfortably, especially in higher-risk situations and as Omicron subvariants fuel case increases. 

Building a vaccine moat around unvaccinated kids can also protect them from the virus. This means making sure the people around them—including older siblings, other family members, teachers, coaches, and other school staff—are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. 

If kids do become infected and hospitalized, remdesivir is an FDA-approved treatment option for children 28 days and older and weighing at least 7 pounds. The drug slows down the virus’s ability to replicate, allowing the immune system to fight the virus more effectively and quickly.