COVID Vaccines for Kids in Summer 2023 – Is your child “up to date”?
It’s been a year since the FDA first authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5. By the end of two long years of the pandemic parents with young children were exhausted from managing exposures, isolation, and testing with every new illness, and the news that vaccines were authorized for young children made national headlines.
Since then, recommendations for pediatric vaccines have been updated multiple times, but the headlines have been missing. Given that the “simplified” vaccine schedule still makes this pediatrician’s head spin I worry that many parents don’t realize that their child isn’t up to date on COVID-19 vaccines! So, what’s new since last summer?
Updated (bivalent) vaccines are recommended for everyone
Bivalent vaccines, which contain both the original strain of COVID-19 and an omicron type strain, are now recommended for everyone. If your child has never been vaccinated and is over 6, only one dose of bivalent mRNA vaccine is recommended. If your child received a primary series, but has not gotten a bivalent vaccine, one booster dose is still recommended. If your child started the primary services and got 1 prior dose of monovalent vaccine, they still need one dose of bivalent vaccine. The CDC is now using the terminology “up to date” on vaccines rather than “fully vaccinated.”
Updated (bivalent) vaccines are now recommended for the primary series
When bivalent vaccines were first introduced in fall 2022, the recommendation was to continue using the original vaccines for young children who had never been vaccinated – what we call a “primary series.” In December 2022, the recommendation was changed to use the bivalent vaccine for all primary series. The monovalent vaccine is no longer recommended as it’s been replaced by the bivalent vaccine.
Both Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines are authorized for young children, but the ages and doses differ for the primary series.
The Pfizer primary series is authorized for children ages 6 months to 4 years, and requires 3 doses. The second dose is given 3-8 weeks after the first dose, and the final dose must be at least 8 weeks after the second dose. Pfizer’s vaccine uses a lower dose of the vaccine, and two doses wasn’t sufficient to generate the immune response – so three doses are needed. However, this means it takes longer for your child to be “up to date” on their COVID vaccine. Once a child turns 5, they only require one dose of the Pfizer bivalent vaccine to be up to date.
The Moderna primary series is authorized for children ages 6 months-5 years. It requires 2 doses, and the second dose is given 4-8 weeks after the first dose.
I continue to recommend that everyone stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccine!