When Can Youngsters Get the Covid-19 Vaccine? 5 Questions Mother and father Are Asking
By Wesley Kufel, Binghamton University, New York State University
The first U.S. COVID-19 vaccines are expected in clinics in mid-December, and states are making plans of who to vaccinate first.
However, one important group is missing: children.
While two vaccines are expected to be approved for adults soon in the United States, testing is only now beginning with children – and only with teenagers. There are still many unknowns.
As a pharmacist and infectious disease professor who helps treat patients hospitalized with COVID-19, I often hear questions about vaccines. The following are and we do not know the answer to some common questions about vaccinating children against COVID-19.
When can my child be vaccinated?
At this time, it is unlikely that a vaccine for children will be available before the start of the next school year in August.
Adult trials with the two leading vaccines have shown promising results. A Food and Drug Administration briefing paper released Dec. 8 showed that the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer appears to meet US standards for adult emergency approval, suggesting it is nearing approval. The UK government has already approved its use and has started vaccinating adults in the UK
However, clinical studies with children are only just beginning.
Pfizer, in collaboration with BioNTech in Germany, only expanded the COVID-19 vaccine test to children aged 12 and over in October. The other leading vaccine maker, Moderna, announced on Dec. 2 that it would soon begin COVID-19 vaccine trials in children ages 12-17.
The effectiveness and safety of the vaccine needs to be evaluated for each age group, and testing for infants, toddlers, or children in the United States has not yet started
Clinical studies are designed to ensure that the vaccine is safe and effective. It usually takes 10 to 15 years from development to approval of the vaccine, but the COVID-19 vaccines are being developed faster in response to the pandemic.
Do children need more recordings than adults?
It doesn’t appear that the schedule for COVID-19 vaccine doses for children will be different, but that could change as the tests progress.
Pfizer’s vaccine is tested in adolescents in a two-dose series every three weeks, just as it is in adults. Moderna also plans to use its adult schedule – two doses four weeks apart – in an upcoming study of 3,000 adolescents.
The second dose is used as a “booster dose” as the first dose alone does not provide optimal immunity. This is in line with several other vaccines, including hepatitis B, measles, mumps, and rubella.
Only these two cans are planned for now, but that could change. It is unclear how long the immune response of these COVID-19 vaccines will last or whether additional doses will be required in the future. For example, the flu vaccine needs a new dose every year as the virus changes. Recent promising data from Moderna shows immunity lasts for at least three months after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Are the vaccines safe for children?
No serious safety concerns have been identified with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, but studies for children are still in their early stages. Several other vaccines are also being developed around the world, and some drug manufacturers have started studies with younger children in other countries.
Another problem that people are addressing is temporary side effects.
Children tend to have stronger immune systems than adults, and they may temporarily respond more strongly to the vaccine. This could mean more pain and swelling at the injection site and possibly a fever for a few days.
These side effects are common with vaccines. They’re proof that the immune system is doing what it should, but they can be scary.
Understanding both the safety of the vaccine and the likelihood of transient side effects are important, as adults and children need both doses for the vaccine to provide optimal immunity.
Is it enough to vaccinate adults?
Just vaccinating adults would not be enough to end the pandemic. Children can still become infected, transmit the virus, and develop complications. If a vaccine is not available, children will likely act as reservoirs for the virus, making it more difficult to end the pandemic.
Both of the leading vaccines have so far reported promising results in adults: Moderna’s vaccine has an efficacy rate of around 94% and Pfizer’s 95%. This means that under the best of conditions, about 95% of adults who received the vaccine were found to be protected. That is higher than expected.
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It remains to be seen whether this also applies to children.
Children usually have milder COVID-19 symptoms than adults, but they can still transmit the virus to others.
There are other benefits to getting the vaccine, including a safer return to schools and activities.
Do we have to keep wearing masks and distance ourselves socially?
In the meantime, it will be important to continue with normal preventive measures, including social distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands, and following other instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While it is hoped that a vaccine will allow people to return to a more “normal” way of life, these preventive measures will still be needed after receiving the vaccine until further information is known about the level of protection from the vaccine.
There are still many unanswered questions. In time we will have more answers.
Wesley Kufel, Assistant Clinical Professor, Pharmaceutical Practice, Binghamton University, State University of New York
This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.