Parents of toddlers in Colorado urged to schedule COVID shots to be ready for school

Parents of children under age 5 will begin receiving messages from the state health department today urging them to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 before preschools reopen.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that children aged six months to 5 years receive either three doses of the Pfizer vaccine or two doses of the Moderna vaccine. Both contain the same ingredients as shots for adults and older children, but in smaller doses.

Infants under six months of age are not eligible for vaccinations, but may receive some protection from serious illness if their mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy.

Pfizer’s vaccine series takes 11 to 16 weeks to complete, while Moderna’s vaccine series takes four to eight weeks, according to Heather Roth, head of immunization for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. That means parents shouldn’t delay if they want their kids to be protected before school starts, especially since the body doesn’t develop its highest level of protection until about two weeks after the last shot, she said.

“Now is the perfect time,” she said.

Children are at less risk of severe COVID-19 than adults, but they had less protection during the omicron wave this winter than earlier during the pandemic, said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the state department of health. Hospitalization rates due to COVID-19 among children under 5 were about twice as likely to be hospitalized due to chickenpox before the vaccine became available, he said, and were comparable to those caused by seasonal influenza. About a quarter of children in this age group who were hospitalized with COVID-19 between December and February were in the intensive care unit.

“As a pediatrician and public health doctor, I am very excited” to have vaccines for young children, he said.

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