A 4-year-old girl in Maryland ended up getting the COVID-19 vaccine by mistake. Victoria and Martin Olivier, the girl's parents, said that they were at Walgreens trying to get the annual flu shot when the incident occurred. The girl, Collete, had volunteered to get her shot first. After the pharmacist injected her, they realized that she was given an adult-dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
The incident left the family nervous of what could happen since the vaccine hasn’t been approved for young children. Colette received the vaccine on Sep. 18 and hasn’t had any major side effects. The family said that they aren’t going to ask Maryland regulators to investigate the issue.
“All of us were just stunned,” her mother told the Baltimore Sun. “No one really knew what to do, of course.”
In a statement to Fox45 News, Walgreens said, “patient safety is our top priority. Events like this are extremely rare and we take this matter very seriously. We are in touch with the patient’s family and we have apologized. Our multi-step vaccination procedure includes several safety checks to minimize the chance of human error. We’ve recently reviewed this process with our pharmacy staff in order to prevent a future occurrence.”
COVID-19 vaccines are currently only approved for children that are 12 years of age or older. The Pfizer company has submitted research to the FDA in hopes that the shots will be available for younger children in the upcoming months. The Moderna company is still testing their vaccine on elementary-aged children and hasn’t given any results yet. The American Association of Pediatrics has said that these vaccines shouldn’t be given to children until approved by the FDA.
Medical experts had told the Baltimore Sun that even though the incident with Colette was scary, it, “should not dictate how other families feel about seeking medical care or vaccinations for their children.”
While Pfzier is trying to get their vaccine approved for younger children, the data that they’ve given is only meant to have the COVID-19 vaccine available for children 5 years of age and older if approved. They’ve said that their vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective for children of this age group when given a dose that’s a third of the amount given to teens and adults. They plan on announcing their data found about giving the vaccine to children younger than 5 years old by the end of the year.
According to Pfizer, the COVID-19 shots given to young children have shown to have side effects that were generally comparable to those experienced by 16 to 25-year-olds. They had nearly 2300 children in their clinical trial. They said that they didn’t find any extreme side effects like myocarditis (heart inflammation) in their small clinical trial. They’re hoping that more data on intense side effects like this will be available in the future.
It takes longer for children to be approved for these kinds of vaccines because it takes more research to figure out what kind of doses they need. Researchers need to test the vaccine in smaller age groups than they do with adults because of how different the immune system is as you’re rapidly growing. The COVID-19 vaccine had some painful side effects in many adults, and while they can handle it for the most part, children are going to feel these side effects much worse than adults do. If a 2-year-old receives a vaccine and is in so much pain that they can’t move their arm, it’s going to cause a lot of anxiety for the child and the family. Issues like these are another reason why companies have to test their vaccines so thoroughly for young children.
Researchers have also said that since older people were the primary age group that was impacted by COVID, that’s another reason for why it’s taken so long for studies to come out about getting the vaccine available for young children. They weren’t as much of a priority, but now that the vaccine is widely available for those who need it the most, now these companies can focus on getting it available for kids.
"There are a lot of parents who are very wary of giving these vaccines to children, and they want to be assured that these vaccines are indeed, as we say, safe and effective," Dr. William Schaffner, a professor and advisor to the U.S CDC said. "Do younger children need the same dose? Are they going to have a different spectrum of side effects than do older adults? All of these things have to be worked out very carefully, so we can be transparent and honest when we talk to parents about getting, for example, a six year old vaccinated."
Since the vaccine isn’t yet available for young children, they’re very vulnerable to catching the virus. They aren’t as likely to get hospitalized and die from it, but the long-term health effects of having the virus still aren’t very known. The CDC recommends that children wear masks and continue to social distance from others so that their odds of getting the virus aren’t as high. Many officials are still hesitant on having in-person education for young children since they’re the age group that’s less protected against the virus at the moment. Officials have said that currently, the best way to protect unvaccinated children is for everyone who’s able to to get the vaccine so that there’s herd immunity and a lower chance of spreading the virus to kids.
While Colette hasn’t experienced any side effects from the accidental vaccine she received, it still isn’t recommended to give the vaccine to children of her age group, and more research about kids her age with the vaccine likely won’t be available until the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Health officials need to be more cautious so that mistakes like this don’t happen, as the effects could’ve been much worse. Colette and her family were lucky that nothing bad has been noticeable so far, and hopefully she won’t have any side effects at all that occur from receiving this accidental vaccine.