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What to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

March 25, 2021 • Our Blog • Illness
Children may have a while to wait before they can receive the COVID vaccine, but current information is promising about its efficacy. Since the FDA approved two COVID-19 vaccines (the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine) in late 2020, much of the country has been buzzing with excitement, hoping we’re approaching the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s certainly positive and hopeful news, but we still have a ways to go — especially when it comes to getting young children and teenagers the vaccines that will be essential to eventually developing herd immunity and making it safe to reopen schools.  As of now, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and children. While both Moderna and Pfizer have begun vaccine trials for children, it’s unclear when exactly those vaccines will be available. Here’s what we know so far.

What Do We Know About the Current Vaccines and Children?

Currently, neither of the FDA approved vaccines is approved for children. Pfizer’s vaccine has been authorized for ages 16 and up while Moderna’s vaccine is currently authorized for ages 18 and up. The reason is that children’s immune systems are quite different from adults’ — and their immune systems can be different at different ages. That means that while vaccines that work on adults generally work in children too, separate clinical trials are necessary for children of different ages to understand the vaccine’s effects.  The good news is that both Pfizer and Moderna have begun U.S. trials for children as young as 12. If those trials go well, they will continue testing the vaccines in younger and younger kids following the age de-escalation strategy, which is typical for new vaccines.  While we still don’t know the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine for children, it will likely be similar to that of adults. Data shows that a few weeks after the second dose of the vaccine, adults are protected from COVID-19 at a success rate of about 95% or 94% (Pfizer or Moderna, respectively). Given that no vaccine can be 100% effective, these numbers are exceptionally high, which is very promising for children and adults alike.

When Can Children Start Receiving the Vaccine?

There are two main factors affecting when children will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The first is that neither approved vaccine has been approved for children yet, and given that the clinical trials are having trouble recruiting participants, it’s unclear when they will be approved. Moderna’s CEO said that while they will soon begin trials for children aged 1 to 11, they don’t expect to have results until 2022. Given that the FDA seems to be using a normal vaccine-approval process for children, the companies will likely need to provide 6 months or more of data to get approval (as opposed to the 2 months of data they needed for the fast-tracked process used for adults).  The other factor is that, because vaccine doses remain extremely limited, the government is forced to prioritize who can receive a vaccine even if they are in an approved age group. Given that children do not seem to get the virus at the same rates as adults, they will likely be among the last to get the vaccine, even after it’s approved for them. As of now, even the teenagers who are in the approved age group are likely to be the last group vaccinated unless they have high-risk health conditions.  In short, we don’t know when children will be able to get the COVID vaccine, but it’s unlikely that it will happen before the second half of 2021 if not even later. Until then, it’s important that everyone keep wearing masks, social distancing, practicing great hand hygiene, and self-quarantining at home if anyone in your family might be sick. These efforts can save lives in the coming months as we wait for everyone in the community — including children — to receive the vaccine.

Understanding COVID Safety for Children

Although it may be a while before children can get vaccinated, Kids’ Health, a leading pediatric clinic serving the Beverly, Massachusetts area, is always happy to help with any questions parents may have about COVID safety. Call us or reach out online to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment today. ...