Achieving herd immunity won’t be possible without a COVID-19 vaccine for kids. This represents a major dent in herd immunity efforts, given that children under 18-years old hold around 22% of the US population. Experts estimate that the needed immunity threshold for the coronavirus requires between 70-90% of the entire population vaccinated. This means that children should receive vaccine shots to achieve this balance.
COVID-19 Also Affects Children
In addition, more than 13,500 children caught coronavirus infections as of March 2021. OUt of the number, more than 260 children died. Unfortunately, vaccines available for adults have yet to secure clearance for use by children. Getting FDA approval requires separate trial results for the age group. While drugmakers such as Pfizer and Moderna already started clinical trials for kids, results will take months to complete and analyze.
Octavio Ramilo, chief of infectious diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Ohio, agrees with the need to vaccinate children sooner. “We definitely need to get kids vaccinated if we want to be as close to normal as we can,” he said. In addition, herd immunity won’t happen unless children receive protection from COVID-19 as well. “It’s hard to do (immunity) just in terms of numbers if you’re not going to vaccinate kids,” said Adam Ratner, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital in New York.
Testing for COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids Ongoing
Currently, only Americans 16 years and above can receive vaccines from Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson only authorize shots for people 18 years old and up. Meanwhile, the UK and EU authorized AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s vaccines for adults 18 and over.
Last Thursday, Pfizer said it started vaccine trials for children from 6 months to 11 years old. More than 2,000 children from ages 12 to 15 years joined one study. The company expects results within the next few weeks. If the numbers are good and the vaccine proved effective, Pfizer will submit the data to the FDA and apply for emergency use authorization. In the meantime, Modern announced they hope to have their vaccine available for adolescents in time for the 2021 school year opening. Also, Moderna recently launched a separate trial for children as young as six months. In addition, the University of Oxford will start trials for children ages 6 to 17 years for its vaccine developed with AstraZeneca.
Faster Trials For COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids?
Unlike the previous trials where efficacy became the focal point, the kids’ trials will focus on safety and immune response. If the results of the trials show that enrolled children showed a similar immune response as adults did, then the efficacy will likely show the same results as adults.
This doesn’t mean the vaccines will be ready soon and maybe even this year. COVID-19 vaccines for kids will most likely show up by early 2022. Health experts think that researchers need to test lower doses, which means more time to analyze.
“The dose is not such a big leap to go from adults to teens,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, a pediatric infectious disease physician. Luzuriaga is also the lead investigator of Moderna’s adolescent trial at the University of Massachusetts Medical School site. “Once we start going into the younger age groups, there’s a bit more work to determine the appropriate dose,” she said.
COVID-19 is Milder for Most Children
Children infected with Covid-19 overwhelmingly experience mild symptoms but usually recover. However, they can still get seriously ill on rare occasions and can transmit the virus to others. Until the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for kids, health authorities say children can safely resume certain activities like in-person learning at schools that take precautionary measures. In addition, some experts caution against focusing too heavily on a specific herd immunity target. Building up population-level protection is an incremental process.
Watch the CNBC Television video reporting that drugmaker Pfizer administers Covid vaccine doses to children under age 12 in a trial:
Do you support vaccinating children with COVID-19 vaccines for protection and to help with herd immunity? Let us know what you think of vaccines in general, as well as the need for developing herd immunity. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.