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UW Health trial confirmed safety of COVID-19 vaccine for younger children

We talked with the principal investigators of the only clinical trial in our state for the COVID-19 vaccine in this young age group
Kids under 5 will get smaller doses than their older siblings, parents and grandparents
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 3:29 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2022 at 5:30 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - “We are ready to go when we get vaccine in hand,” Dr. Jim Conway of U.W. Health said.

“It feels like a sense of relief,” said Dr. Bill Hartman.

Children as young as 6 months old are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer or Moderna. Wisconsin is expected to start receiving the doses early next week. This recommendation makes COVID-19 vaccines available to almost 295,000 more children in Wisconsin.

Doctors Conway and Hartman at U.W. Health were co-principal investigators for the only clinical trial in our state for the COVID-19 vaccine in this young age group.

“We feel great to contribute to this movement toward gradually working into younger kids and giving them the same opportunity to be protected against this virus as older siblings, parents and grandparents,” Conway said.

They say the first thing parents should know is that these vaccines are safe.

“Both very, very safe, both clearly effective at preventing serious disease, hospitalization, ICU admissions and death,” Dr. Conway said.

Hartman says approval followed months of closely monitoring trial participants and gathering and submitting data -- the same data recently approved by the FDA and now CDC to give these shots the green light.

Because both Pfizer and Moderna were given emergency-use authorization at the same time, parents can choose which vaccine to give their kids.

The main differences are dose size and timeframe. The Pfizer vaccine is a three-dose series which are a tenth of the adult dosage. If parents started the series next week, it would be at least mid-September before a child is considered fully vaccinated.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose series, about a fourth of the adult dose. If that first dose were given next week, a child would be fully vaccinated by mid-August, just in time for the start of school.

“Because we have been able to cut the dosage down to be more age- and size-appropriate, less side effects, but good immune response that protects against infections,” said Dr. Conway.

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Dr. Jim Conway was one of the principal investigators of the only COVID-19 vaccine trial in Wisconsin involving kids under 5

No matter which shot you discuss with your pediatrician, or if your child had a previous infection, Dr. Hartman says you should not hesitate to have your child vaccinated.

“It does give parents a choice, but the correct choice is really the one that is near you you can get your child vaccinated with,” Hartman said.

He added, “While most have mild cases, it’s not a benign virus in children. Children can still develop long COVID in the under-5 group. Over 450 Kids have died of COVID-19 here in the United States. And so the notion that COVID doesn’t affect kids, it’s really a false notion,” said Hartman.

Hartman says the COVID-19 vaccines can be given with other childhood vaccinations.

If you have any questions, he says talk to your kid’s pediatrician.

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