By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The youngest patients without protection against COVID-19 may soon have a vaccine.

Children under the age of five are the only group left without access to an approved COVID-19 vaccine. However, Moderna announced Thursday that it is seeking emergency use authorization for its vaccine for children under six.

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The pediatric vaccine would be a two-dose mRNA vaccine, a quarter of the dosage given to adults. Test results that came out in March showed there are no safety concerns.

In the wake of the announcement many parents are feeling hopeful.

“I literally screamed,” Sammi Forbord, from Bloomington, said. “It was relief.”

Forbord has a 1-year-old boy.

The efficacy of preventing symptomatic infection altogether was 51% in children 6 months to 23 months and 37% in children ages 2 to 6 years of age. While those figures are lower comparted to the adult vaccines, the testing occurred during the spread of the more contagious omicron variant.

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“Omicron is different than Delta and the original forms of COVID, when the vaccine was initially tested for adults,” Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn, a pediatrician at Hennepin Healthcare and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said. “When we look at efficacy for adults and older kids against Omicron, this vaccine at the lower dose for younger kids is just as effective.”

The CDC says the annual flu vaccine ranges from 30-60% effective depending on the strain.

Among children between the ages of 5 and 12 that do have access to an approved COVID vaccine, the vaccination rate nationally is less than 30%. Healthy children are at low risk for serious complications from COVID-19, but there are children who do require hospitalization and some die from the disease.

“Numbers seem low until it’s your family member,” Hennepin Healthcare pediatrician and American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Dr. Lichtsinn said. “Kids aren’t supposed to die from preventable illnesses, there should be no hospitalizations and no deaths.”

As for when the youngest pediatric vaccine could be approved, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview last week that approval may not come until June, suggesting that the FDA would want to review data from Moderna and Pfizer, once the Pfizer submits a vaccine for this age group.

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Dr. Lichtsinn said the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health organizations are pushing for a standard approval process and don’t want any delay.

Kate Raddatz