Parents of Colorado toddlers urged planning COVID shots now

Parents of children under the age of 5 are receiving messages from the state health department today, urging them to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 before preschools resume.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that children between the ages of six months and five years should get either three doses of the Pfizer vaccine or two of the Moderna vaccine. Both contain the same ingredients as the shots given to adults and older children, but in smaller doses.

Infants under the age of six months are not eligible for the vaccine but can get some protection from serious diseases if their mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy.

It takes between 11 and 16 weeks to complete the Pfizer series and four to eight weeks for Moderna, said Heather Roth, chief of the immunization division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That said, parents shouldn’t hesitate if they want their children protected before school starts, especially since the body doesn’t develop its highest level of protection until about two weeks after the last injection, she said.

“Now is the perfect time,” she says.

Children are at lower risk of severe COVID-19 than adults but had less protection during this winter’s Omicron surge than they did when the pandemic began, Dr. Eric France, Chief Medical Officer of the National Health Ministry. Hospitalization rates for COVID-19 in children under the age of 5 were about twice the likelihood of being hospitalized for chickenpox before this vaccine became available and were comparable to the rate caused by the seasonal flu, he said he. About a quarter of children in this age group hospitalized for COVID-19 between December and February spent time in an intensive care unit.

“As a pediatrician and public health doctor, I’m thrilled” to have vaccines for younger children, he said.

Side effects are similar to those seen in adults, including muscle pain, chills, fatigue, headache, and fever. Children who are not old enough to describe symptoms have sometimes had increased crying and irritability or decreased appetite for a few days after the injection. The likelihood of side effects appears to be slightly higher with the Moderna shots, although parents whose children are particularly averse to needles may prefer the two-shot regimen.

“Ultimately, I don’t think there is a bad choice, and I encourage parents to take whatever vaccine is available to them,” Roth said.

Roth said 381 children received their first vaccinations on Wednesday and that number is likely to rise as reports come in later in the day. However, uptake has been slow among older children, and only about 37% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 were vaccinated in Colorado.

State law allows parents to take paid time off from work to have their children vaccinated, France said. Shots will be available through doctor’s offices, some pharmacies, the state’s immunization buses, and one-time events. For information on where your child can get the vaccine, call 877-268-2926 or visit covid19.colorado.gov/kids-vaccines.

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