What Are Parents Asking About COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Younger Than 5 Years Old?

Dr. Paul Offit addresses whether children younger than 5 years of age need a coronavirus vaccine, if the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work in kids under 5, and why delaying COVID vaccination presents a risk for your child.


What are parents asking about COVID-19 vaccine for children younger than 5 years old?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. It is June 21st, 2022. So, what I want to talk about today is something that's just happened within the past week is that we now, finally, have a vaccine that is available for children younger than 5 years of age.

Both Pfizer’s and Moderna's vaccines were just approved and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, the first question I think that parents have is, do we really need a vaccine for young children? Aren't young children relatively protected against severe forms of this particular infection, COVID? And the answer is if you look over the last two years and just look at children less than 5 years of age, 45,000 have been admitted to the hospital, about 10,000 have been admitted to the intensive care unit, and about 450 have died. That's more than most of the other viruses for which we have vaccines. So, certainly this vaccine is of value.

So, do they work? Do these mRNA vaccines that are made by Pfizer and Moderna work to protect against disease caused by COVID? Well, we know that there were studies of several thousand people looking at both of these vaccines in children between 6 months and 5 or 6 years of age, and what you found was that the immune response that was induced by those vaccines was consistent with the level of protection that was seen in older adolescents or young adults. We also know that from the efficacy studies, it looks like that there is some protection against mild illness for both of those vaccines. And when you see protection against mild illness, you can take a very good guess that that's also going to mean protection against severe illness, because it's much harder to prevent mild illness than it is to prevent severe illness.

So, some parents may say, OK, but I just want to wait. I just want to wait to make sure that there's not a problem. But know that there are no risk-free choices; there are just choices to take different risks. And I think from the parents' point of view, the choice for all parents is to take the lesser risk. And I would argue clearly that the lesser risk is to get your child vaccinated.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Jun 23, 2022