What Iowans need to know about the new COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months old and up

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For the first time Tuesday, U.S. children above 6 months in age received doses of COVID-19 vaccinations.

After the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the vaccines last week, health care facilities across Iowa began administering the vaccinations.

Here's what Iowa parents need to know about the new vaccines, their dosages, and where they can take their children to be vaccinated.

How are the vaccines for children different?

There are two options for younger children to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Parents can choose between a three-dose series of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or a two-dose series of the Moderna vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available for children that are 6 months through 4 years old. The first and second doses are separated by three to eight weeks, with the the third dose coming eight weeks after the second dose.

For the Pfizer vaccine, children receive a three microgram dose. That is significantly lower than the 10 micrograms per dose administered in vaccines previously approved for children ages 5 to 11, and the 30 micrograms anyone age 12 and older.

The Moderna vaccine is approved for children 6 months to 5 years old. It is a 25 microgram dose, with the first and second doses separated by four to eight weeks.

More: COVID-19 hospitalizations up, new cases down as pandemic continues gradual rise in Iowa

Are the vaccines for children safe?

Michael Brownlee, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics' chief pharmacy officer, said Wednesday that the trials of the vaccines were done during the surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, and show that the efficacy is similar to vaccines in adults.

"The trials are able to show and demonstrate that these vaccines are safe and effective. The vaccine trials also showed that the side effects in kids are consistent with what we saw in others as well," he said.

According to Brownlee, the trials showed the side effects of the vaccine to be moderate, including pain at the injection site, redness, potential swelling, fever, fatigue and headaches. For children between 6 and 23 months old, there was more irritability, sleepiness, and a decreased appetite reported.

Even if a child has had COVID-19 in the past, the CDC is recommending children under 5 receive the vaccination.

"The immunity that was received through having COVID might only last potentially 90 days, and the vaccine will help that immunity last longer and be more durable to help prevent hospitalizations, serious illness," Brownlee said.

Brownlee said the vaccine gives families the opportunity to fully protect themselves against COVID-19.

"Right now may seem like things have really stabilized or low risk at this point. But we know that this is the final link in the ages that could be eligible to receive the vaccination, and we want to continue to encourage families to pursue this vaccination for their kids to protect their kids and protect their families as well," he said.

More: Johnson County's COVID-19 cases decline after spring surge. Health officials warn residents to stay vigilant

A vial of the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and a diluent for it are seen on the first day of a clinic with the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, at the University of Iowa Health Care Iowa River Landing location in Coralville, Iowa.
A vial of the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and a diluent for it are seen on the first day of a clinic with the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, at the University of Iowa Health Care Iowa River Landing location in Coralville, Iowa.

Where to get children a COVID-19 vaccine: Clinics and pharmacies offering appointments

Locations throughout Iowa began administering vaccinations Tuesday, from health care facilities to local pharmacies.

One such place is the University of Iowa Health Care facility at Iowa River Landing in Coralville. Brownlee said health care workers began administering vaccinations there Wednesday, and that 200 appointment slots were filled immediately.

"There's quite significant demand. We do offer both vaccines at this time, the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines, for kids under the age of 6. We're grateful to have access to the vaccines and provide them," Brownlee said.

UI Health Care is not experiencing any shortages of the vaccine, and is looking to expand the number of locations offering vaccines early next week, Brownlee said. Members of the public can sign up for a vaccine slots online, and UI Health Care is looking to add more later this week.

The vaccine is also being offered at pharmacies throughout Iowa, including CVS, Walgreens and Hy-Vee.

CVS is offering vaccination appointments for children 18 months and older at their MinuteClinic locations across the United States, where the vaccination is given by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Appointments can be scheduled online.

Walgreens is offering vaccination appointments for children 3 and up, with appointments becoming readily available on Saturday. Appointments can be scheduled online.

Hy-Vee is also offering vaccinations to children 3 and up. The vaccines are available by appointment, which can be scheduled online, at select Hy-Vee Pharmacy locations.

Both MercyOne and UnityPoint hospitals are planning to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to children 5 and younger as well.

Parents and guardians can also seek vaccinations from their medical providers or check with nearby health centers to see if there is availability.

This article originally appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen: What to know about Iowa COVID vaccines for children 5 and younger