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Decisions and choices for Massachusetts parents, as COVID vaccine now available to young children

A vial of COVID-19 vaccine.
Creative Commons/Pixabay
A vial of COVID-19 vaccine.

Massachusetts parents can now get the youngest members of their families vaccinated, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Massachusetts.

Gov. Charlie Baker's office said the state will follow the CDC recommendation for children as young as 6 months old.

Dr. Charlotte Boney, who chairs the department of pediatrics at Baystate Health, said she has heard from parents and doctors who question how important it is for newly eligible kids to get the shot, given that COVID-19 has been far more deadly for older people.

"There have been 442 children under the age of five who have died from COVID-19 in the country," she said. "If you vaccinate your children against other infectious diseases because you want to protect them from severe disease and death, this is no different."

Boney said for many parents the question is not about whether to vaccinate their child, but instead, which vaccine to get. She said the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have both shown an excellent immune response.

"The Moderna vaccine studied almost 500 kids under the age of 5 with a much smaller dose, obviously, than the adult dose, and they have a two-shot regimen, four weeks apart," Boney said. "For those kids, there are a few more side effects, particularly some fevers associated with getting immunized against Moderna."

She said Pfizer studied fewer than 300 kids for the effectiveness of the vaccine, and requires a three-shot regimen.

"So the first two shots are three weeks apart. Then the second one is eight weeks later. And the reason why you need three shots in Pfizer is they used an even smaller dose of their adult dose than Moderna did," Boney said. "However, there were fewer side effects with Pfizer."

Both companies tested the safety of the vaccines on much larger groups of children.

Boney said the first step for parents is to call their child's pediatrician.

"Have a conversation with them about which vaccine they offer and when they will begin administering the them," she said.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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