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'We had to make sure it was safe': Leading St. Louis pediatrician on vaccines for children under 5

"I think parents are ready to get their kids vaccinated," Washington University Infectious Disease Pediatrician Dr. Jason Newland said.

ST. LOUIS — The first COVID-19 vaccines rolled out a year and a half ago. In the time since then, boosters were released and some people received four shots, but the youngest children were still without a vaccine option.

On Friday, the FDA authorized vaccines for toddlers, and the CDC recommended the vaccines and said they could be ready as soon as this week.

Tracy Dalton is more than ready to bring her almost 6-month-old, Max, in for his first vaccine. 

"Max will be six months on the 29th so he'll go on his birthday to get it," she said.

When news of the FDA authorization of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for kids 5 and under hit news feeds, a wave of relief washed over the Dalton family. 

"We have been really, really scared that they weren't going to approve them for his age group because it was just taking so long," she said.

Dr. Jason Newland, an infectious disease expert at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, said the vaccines for children under 5 took so long because "We had to make sure it was safe."

The COVID vaccines for 5 and under are different than their adult counterparts, but not by much. 

"The dose for Pfizer is one-10th of the adult dose and the dose in Moderna is one-fourth of the adult dose," Dr. Newland said. 

Vaccine hesitancy remains for some parents, a University of North Carolina study of 50 parents showed 62 percent were hesitant about vaccinating their children. Some parents cited constantly changing vaccine information.

Dr. Newland understands some families will be hesitant to get their child vaccinated and wants parents to know this: "I think the biggest thing to remember is that the COVID-19 vaccine in this age group will protect them. Over 400 children have died of COVID 19, that's a lot. We vaccinate for influenza in this age group, so we should be vaccinating for COVID-19. Number two, it's going to prevent them landing in the hospital. Number three and maybe the most important, it's going to protect their loved ones."

Dr. Newland said the vaccine will give kids under five an extra layer of protection in unmasked environments like planes and indoor activities. 

Locations scheduling children under 5 for COVID 19 vaccinations: 

Locations expected to offer the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 and under, but have not released days: 

  • SSM Health
  • Mercy Health
  • CVS

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