Moderna seeks to be 1st with COVID-19 shots for littlest kids

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Moderna is seeking to be the first to offer COVID-19 vaccine for the youngest American children, as it asked the Food and Drug Administration Thursday to clear low-dose shots for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Frustrated families are waiting impatiently for a chance to protect the nation's littlest kids as all around them people shed masks and other public health precautions. Already about three-quarters of children of all ages show signs they've been infected at some point during the pandemic.

Moderna submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration that it hopes will prove two low-dose shots can protect children younger than 6 -- although the effectiveness wasn't nearly as high in kids tested during the omicron surge as earlier in the pandemic.

"There is an important unmet medical need here with these youngest kids," Dr. Paul Burton, Moderna's chief medical officer, told The Associated Press. Two kid-size shots "will safely protect them. I think it is likely that over time they will need additional doses. But we're working on that."

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Moderna said two kid doses were about 40% to 50% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. It's not a home run but for many parents, any protection would be better than none.

Now, only children ages 5 or older can be vaccinated in the U.S., using rival Pfizer's vaccine, leaving 18 million younger tots unprotected.

"I definitely want her to be vaccinated as soon as she would qualify," said Sun Zhang, whose 4-year-old daughter is unprotected against the virus.

"I trust the research and the science behind vaccination, and I think it's important to vaccinate our children so they can stay safe," said Zhang.

SEE ALSO: CDC estimates 3 in 4 kids have had coronavirus infections, as Pfizer seeks booster approval for kids

In Philadelphia, only 29% of eligible children 5-11 are vaccinated.

In Washington, D.C., 32% of eligible children 5-11 are fully vaccinated. Forty-six percent of New York's 5 to 12-year-olds are fully vaccinated.

There is still work to be done to convince parents, including those who've gotten the shot themselves.

"I had very interesting reactions with the shots myself, how I felt after. I don't want my 3-year-old to go through that," said Dana Allen of South Philadelphia. "No rush, no rush, definitely considering."

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that the FDA is weighing whether to consider emergency use authorization for both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines for young children at the same time, rather than considering them separately.

Moderna's vaccine isn't the only one in the race. Pfizer is soon expected to announce if three of its even smaller-dose shots work for the littlest kids, months after the disappointing discovery that two doses weren't quite strong enough.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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