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COVID vaccine for Michigan children 5 and younger a step closer to reality.

Bridge Magazine

Robin Erb

Bridge Magazine

Drugmaker Moderna announced Wednesday it will request federal emergency authorization for a COVID vaccine for children 5 and under, even as its competitor, Pfizer and BioNTech, await trial results of their  pediatric vaccine series.

The study results from about 6,700 children aged 6 months to under 6 years indicated lower levels of effectiveness than hoped for in the pediatric vaccine developed by Massachusetts-based Moderna.

In comparison to adult vaccines that proved 94 percent effective when announced at the end of 2020, Moderna’s pediatric vaccine given at one-fourth the adult dose was 44 percent effective in preventing symptomatic illness among children 6 months to 2 years old, and 37 percent effective in children 2 through 5 years old.

Ultimately, even adult vaccines proved less effective against omicron something Moderna noted in its press statement Wednesday. In fact, the pediatric vaccine was tested while omicron was predominant through the U.S., and its effectiveness was similar to that conferred to adults 18 to 25 years old, the company said in its announcement.

Moderna, which said it also will move forward with a request that the FDA authorize its vaccine for children 6 to 12 years old, is evaluating a booster dose for all children.

Pfizer-BioNTech requested emergency authorization in February for its two-dose vaccine for children as young as 6 months, but put the application on hold until it compiled data on the effectiveness of a three-dose series instead.

Just how much approval of a Moderna vaccine for children younger than 6 will increase vaccine rates in Michigan is unclear, said Dr. Felix Valbuena, Chief Executive Officer at the Community Health and Social Services Center, CHASS, in southwest Detroit.

Parents who seek vaccine protection against COVID for their children are more concerned about whether they work than which drugmaker produces it, said Dr. Felix Valbuena, CEO at the Community Health and Social Services Center, CHASS, in southwest Detroit. (Courtesy photo)

The FDA already has cleared the Pfizer vaccines for children as young as five and Pfizer boosters for anyone 12 and older. But demand among these already-approved groups long ago faded, nearly drying up completely in recent months, according to state data.

Only 1 in four (24.7 percent) of Michigan children ages 5 to 11 have been vaccinated against COVID, showing a reluctance to vaccinate children against COVID.

Overall, 60.2 percent of eligible Michigan residents are fully vaccinated, according to state data. That compares to nearly two in three people (65.4 percent) nationally who are fully vaccinated, according to a dashboard by the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic.

There are nearly 568,000 children under age 5 in Michigan, according to the 2019 American Community Survey.

At CHASS in Detroit, staff have administered more than 17,000 doses of the three U.S.-approved COVID vaccines Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson since Dec. 28, 2020, including 2,981 Pfizer doses for children 5 and older, Valbuena said.

“We have (the Pfizer) vaccine, and I don’t think there’s anybody waiting for a Moderna version” for those older children, he said.

Demand for vaccines for younger children will not likely vary depending on the drugmaker, he said.

“From the parent perspective, it’s really about whether the vaccine protects them. Most people coming in say ‘I want a vaccine. You give me the best one. You’re the doctor, and you know what’s best,’” Valbuena said.

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