News Release

Assessing Vaccine Authorization for Children Under 5

Pfizer and BioNTech have completed their submission for emergency use authorization (EUA) of a Covid-19 vaccine for children under 5, after results found that a third dose increased its efficacy. The Food and Drug Administration quickly set a June date for the meeting to review EUA requests for both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for this age group. 

Some parents have eagerly awaited vaccines for this age group. But experts warn that even amidst the current Omicron surge, vaccination rates in young children may be quite low: children 5-11 have low Covid-19 vaccination rates compared to the rest of the population. For working parents, taking time off to bring their child to be vaccinated––and then potentially care for them in the event that the child develops vaccine-induced symptoms––may discourage parents from vaccinating their children. For others, vaccine hesitancy and beliefs in vaccine misinformation can also play a large role in the decision.

TARA SMITH, tsmit176@kent.edu, @aetiology
    Dr. Smith is a professor of epidemiology at the College of Public Health at Kent State University. 

DAN ROMER and KENNETH WINNEG, email michael.rozansky@appc.upenn.edu to schedule interviews. 
    Romer is the research director, and Winneg is the managing director of survey research, at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). 

The Annenberg Science Knowledge Survey, published in January 2022 in the fifth wave of the survey since April 2021, found a significant association between beliefs in vaccination misinformation and the reduced likelihood that an adult would recommend vaccinating a 5-to 11-year-old. A spokesperson for the Annenberg Public Policy Center told the Institute for Public Accuracy that researchers found that “a high level of belief in statements that vaccinations are harmful is significantly associated with a lower likelihood to recommend the Covid-19 vaccine for those ages 5 to 11.” Adults who are unboosted were also less likely (than those who are vaccinated and boosted) to recommend vaccinating a 5- to 11-year-old and are more likely to believe misinformation about vaccine safety.

Though the survey did not ask about children under the age of 5 because a vaccine was not available at the time, the spokesperson also noted that “one can certainly be concerned that similar sources of hesitancy will affect willingness to vaccinate this [younger] age group.” 

At the time of the survey’s release, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of APPC, said that “long-lived misconceptions about vaccination are causing some vaccinated but not boosted adults to express reservations about vaccinating 5-to-11-year-olds against Covid-19… As the public health community works to increase community vaccination levels, reaching these adults with corrective content delivered by trusted individuals should be a priority.”

Dr. Smith told IPA today: “What I’m most concerned about is the idea that children don’t need the vaccine, which has been promoted both by anti-vaccine groups as well as somewhat by more ‘reputable’ individuals with large media followings. The idea is that because children don’t generally experience serious illness at a high rate, and many have been infected already, vaccination won’t help them. However, we know that as many as a quarter of children are still immunologically naive to [the virus], and even for children who have experienced infection, immunity appears to wane quickly and so they may no longer be protected. I hope parents will discuss the Covid vaccine with their trusted pediatrician or other healthcare provider when it becomes available for those under the age of 5.”