As parents of a 4-year-old, Ben and Sarah Carter have been waiting for months to get their son vaccinated against COVID-19.
Now, federal authorization is likely any day for vaccines for kids ages 6 months to 5 years — the last age group to be approved — and the Carters say they will not delay a shot for Malcolm, 4.
"We will sign up as fast as possible and try to get the earliest appointment," Ben Carter said. Malcom's older brother, Will, 6, is already vaccinated.
Sarah Carter, an advance practice registered nurse, said she worries about long-term consequences of COVID-19 in children not protected by vaccine.
"It's been very frustrating not to offer them protection," she said.
COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 could be available in Kentucky early next week, pending final federal approval.
Local health official say they are excited that the children ages 6 months to 5 years are about to become eligible for the vaccine that's been available to older children for months and for adults since late 2020.
"I'm not going to say that this is the day that so many parents have been waiting for," Dr. Kristina Bryant, an infectious diseases specialist with Norton Children's Hospital, said Thursday. "I think that day is the day their kids actually get vaccinated against COVID-19."
An expert panel on Wednesday voted to recommend two vaccines for young children, with final approval needed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Friday, the FDA gave its approval to the vaccines under an emergency use authorization. The CDC was expected to act Saturday.
Family Health Centers, a network of community clinics in the Louisville area, has vaccines on order and the clinics will be ready to provide them to younger children pending federal approval, said spokeswoman Melissa Mather.
Dr. Beverly Gaines, a Louisville pediatrician, said she will offer the vaccines to children under 5 at her office on Barrett Avenue as soon as they come in. She already signed up for the first shipment through the state Department of Public Health.
"I am all for it," said Gaines, whose pediatric office was the first approved for a pilot project to offer COVID-19 vaccines when they were first cleared for older children.
And Gaines said she already has her first two patients scheduled.
Parents of 6-month-old twins told her on a recent office visit they plan to return next month when the COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available, she said.
"They're coming back," she said.
What vaccines will be offered?
Approval is pending for the Moderna vaccine for children ages 6 months to 6 years and for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years. The ages differ based on the ages of children in the drug companies' two separate trials.
The vaccines are the same as approved for adults and older children but will be given in smaller doses for the youngest kids.
The Moderna vaccine requires two shots, four weeks apart.
The Pfizer vaccine calls for two shots three weeks apart and a third dose eight weeks later.
Both were determined to be safe and effective by the expert panel that reviewed them.
Where do I get my child vaccinated?
Vaccines will be available through doctors' offices, clinics and other locations.
Norton HealthCare said it plans to offer the vaccines to children 5 months to 6 years at sites including 37 pediatric clinics around the community.
Family Health Centers will begin notifying its patients as soon as the vaccines become available, Mather said.
While pharmacies can offer vaccines to older children, children under age 3 must visit a clinic or doctor's office, according to the state health department.
What are the side effects?
Bryant, the Norton pediatrician, said side effects of the vaccine in studies have been "mild to moderate" in younger children and include fever, fussiness, fatigue and soreness at the injection site.
Why should I get my child vaccinated?
Bryant said she's aware some parents remain worried about the safety of the vaccine in small children and also may believe it's not necessary since, overall, children don't become as seriously ill from COVID-19 as adults.
But some children do become seriously ill, requiring hospitalization, or develop a rare but serious inflammatory condition know as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C that can be fatal.
In addition, COVID-19 can be fatal for some children.
"The vaccine is the best way to protect your child against COVID," Bryant said.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: COVID vaccines for kids under 5 could be available in Kentucky soon