As adults clamor for COVID-19 vaccines, they are not available to children. That’s because clinical trials up until now did not include kids.
And while they typically have fewer symptoms than adults with COVID-19, kids can spread the disease.
Experts say they need protection to keep us all safe.
Vaccines were tested on adults. 44,000 got the Pfizer shot, 30,000 received Moderna’s.
At warp speed the vaccines were made available and relief, and joy spread. But many parents wondered, if studies show they are safe, why can’t my child get the shot at beating a deadly disease?
Dr. Elaine Rosenfeld is director of pediatric infectious disease at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
“One really needs to study children,” she said. “They can’t just extrapolate that information about safety and effectiveness from the adult data. And that’s the way the vaccine studies have pretty much always been done.”
As with most vaccines and drugs, clinical trials begin in adults. Successful results then open the door for pediatric participation.
“The expectation would be hopefully that 12 to 15-year-olds will be able to be vaccinated, perhaps even as soon as late this spring or this summer,” Rosenfeld said. “And perhaps by the fall, children even as young as first grade and up will be able to be vaccinated.”
Pfizer enrolled 2,259 12 to 15-year-olds so far. Moderna’s goal is 3,000.
“With each additional age group that’s studied, it could be that it is a compressed trial period,” Rosenfeld said.
Most kids do not get seriously ill with COVID-19. 3 million were diagnosed in this country, 200 died.
But there is also a risk for a secondary illness, a post infection called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children or MIS-C.
“There have been around 2,000 children to date that have presented with a very severe post Covid illness,” Rosenfeld said. “And most of these children have no recollection of ever having been sick with the Covid illness. … The overwhelming percentage of these children have ended up in the intensive care unit receiving critical care. And many of them have had significant cardiac abnormalities.”
In addition to their risk for secondary illness, there is another argument to vaccinate more kids. Doctors say herd immunity will positively impact people of every age.
“Since children would be such high risk, even if asymptomatic, to spread it to the adult population,” Rosenfeld said. “I just think that it is really important to think about. That when you know that there have been 3 million positive kids already.”
The next phase is babies.
UIC which participated in the adult Moderna trial is hoping to study the vaccine in infants up to 12-year-olds.