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How to protect kids under 5 from omicron before COVID-19 vaccine availability

Virus Outbreak Vaccine Kids California
Posted at 4:46 PM, Jan 31, 2022

(WXYZ) — Coronavirus cases have been dropping nationally, but hospitalization rates have remained high.

One group, in particular, is quite vulnerable, and that’s children under the age of 5. It's unfortunate that COVID-19 cases in children have continued to climb. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported a 17% jump in numbers, with over 1.1 million cases for the week ending Jan. 20.

But what’s really concerning is how our littlest ones are getting infected and hospitalized. And there are a couple of reasons why. First, children 4 and under are too young to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Only kids 5 and up can get Pfizer’s vaccine. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that children under the age of 2 wear masks. And that’s because they’re so little, they’d likely not be able to remove the mask properly without help.

Now, the omicron variant is not necessarily worse for children. Overall, kids are less likely to develop severe disease. But still, the latest data tells us that 7 out of every 100,000 children under 5 have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. So, the risk is not zero.

You know I’m a parent and a physician, which means I get asked all the time, “What can parents do to protect their littlest ones?” And here’s my advice:

  • Every person in the family who is eligible should get fully vaccinated and then boosted
  • Practice mitigation measures like washing or sanitizing hands and physically distancing when outside the home
  • Lastly — and I know this one can be tough because everyone is tired of the pandemic — but limit your activities with others especially when case numbers are surging in your community.

A newly published study looked at 77,000 households. Researchers found that in families where both parents were vaccinated and boosted, the children had a 58% lower risk of getting infected when compared to parents who were just double-vaccinated. Now, this data was collected during the delta variant wave, but it indicates that vaccines can help protect vulnerable children.

As for when vaccines will be ready for kids under the age of 5, it could be as early as March. Pfizer’s clinical trials found that two doses did not kick off an adequate immune response, so we’re now waiting to see data regarding three shots. So hopefully by this spring, we’ll have vaccines for children 6 months to 4 years of age.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.