Lucia Abascal (top), Jennifer Miller (bottom)

At a recent press briefing held by the California Department of Health — “Vaccinate All 58” — physicians discussed with Ethnic Media Services the much anticipated vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years old that is now available and being distributed to pediatricians across the state.

This vaccine for babies and toddlers joins the protection that has been available for children aged 5-17 and adults. Young people aged 5-17 are also eligible to receive a first booster dose. All children can now get vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if they are 6 months or older — the dosage is determined by the age of the child.  

“Vaccinate All 58” is California’s campaign to provide “safe, fair and equitable” vaccine for all 58 counties in the state.

Dr. Lucia Abascal of the Department of Public Health said this vaccine for the state’s youngest population numbers 2.2 million children. The vaccine is free regardless of insurance and immigration status.  

“That misconception that kids are safe, that nothing happens to kids is wrong. We have more evidence that kids are at an acute risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19. We’ve definitely seen some deaths” Abascal said

“Kids can also suffer from light midterm consequences, such as multi-inflammatory syndrome and long COVID.  So there’s definitely a need to protect them.”

Abascal said there is cause for concern with an increase of COVID-19 cases in California due to the highly contagious Omicron.

She notes that — with the multitude of Coronavirus variants circulating —  it’s more important than ever to vaccinate vulnerable populations despite the perception that Omicron is a “milder” variant; it can still be fatal.

“We can actually see that hospitalizations picked the record in January, February when the Omicron search started for this [youngest] group, as well as deaths.  So there is a need to vaccinate young kids,” Abascal said.

Dr. Jennifer Miller with East Bay Pediatrics referenced the fears that parents may have in vaccinating babies and toddlers.

“One family told me that they heard the vaccine could kill them.  So why would they get their child a vaccine that they thought could kill them?” Miller said.

“They worry that the side effects are dramatic and dangerous, but what I find is that the side effects are things like a low-grade fever, pain at the injection side and body aches. There are really common side effects that we see really with pretty much all childhood immunizations.”  

While parents have also expressed concern that the vaccine has been “rushed,” Miller contends the production of this vaccine didn’t cut any corners. “They’ve been properly tested and vetted,” she said.

Moderna’s vaccine for its youngest patients is a quarter of the strength it is for the adult dose, and is given in two separate injections, spaced a month apart. Pfizer’s vaccination for babies is given in three shots, with the second given 21 days after the first shot given, and the third shot is given 60 days after the second shot. It is one-tenth the strength of the adult version of the vaccine.  

“There may also be concern about vaccinating from pregnant women that should be eased by providing more information.

Over 200,000 pregnant women in the United States have been vaccinated for COVID-19 without any complication,” Miller said.  

Beyond the health risks taken when children and adults aren’t vaccinated, Miller also stressed the pandemic brought an emotional toll on children that “we all need to do our part to bring to an end.”  

“Children and adolescents need their lives back, they need to be able to fully gather with friends and peers, go to dances and proms, participate in sports and activities and not Zoom away from their friends. Because of COVID, they’ve missed milestones and critical stages of development, leading to an unprecedented mental health crisis. ”  

“I try to remind them that we are in this together,” said Dr. Miller.  “Getting our children vaccinated helps us all; it improves the health of our community.”

Doctors are concerned that with parents either refusing to vaccinate their children or by delaying their COVID-19 vaccination, they are putting other family members at risk. Abascal said she and her husband both contracted COVID-19 when their toddler was exposed to the virus at daycare and brought it home to them.  

“The decision not to vaccinate is the decision to get the COVID virus,” Abascal expressed clearly. “There’s no predicting how severe that will be. You’re taking a chance that it will be mild; however, one in five hospitalized children end up in the [intensive care unit] ICU.”

For more information go to: Vaccinate All 58  at this site you can ask questions and  locate a vaccination site near you. Parents should contact their pediatricians to receive the vaccination. Pharmacies cannot vaccinate children younger than 3.  If you don’t have a pediatrician go to: