Now that Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer-BioNTech Coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the United States and other countries including; Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom, the focus for vaccine testing is turning to children. The vaccine has been authorized for use in the U.S. for people aged 16 years or older. The focus has now turned to the studying and testing of younger children.
Pfizer/NBiotech were the first Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers to include children in U.S. trials in September. Morderna Pharmaceuticals whose vaccine has also shown to be effective for adults said it is started a trial for children aged 12 – 17 years. With AstraZeneca also announcing it plans a U.S. trial for children.
The exclusion of children in mainstream U.S. vaccine trials has made some public experts uneasy who say they are unsure whether the vaccines are safe for children or would require changes to dosage levels. Although children are far less likely than adults to fall severely ill or die after being infected with the coronavirus and in fact the majority are asymptomatic (experience no symptoms) or experience very mild symptoms, researchers say that vaccinating them is important to help prevent the spread of the virus and to achieve herd immunity. ‘Only protecting adults doesn’t make sense as a public health intervention,’ Stanford University of pediatrics, Grace Lee has stated. ‘I know there’s a perception that kids are just running around asymptomatic, but there are kids who get really sick from this,’ she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) urged federal officials in a recent letter to include children in clinical studies. In the letter APP stated that more than two-thirds of the children who died from Covid-19 infections were Latino or Black. It is estimated that more than one million children in the U.S. alone have been infected with the virus so far. Sean O’Leary a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and vice chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases has said that the vaccines are just as safe for children as for adults. ‘For most vaccines, there is not much of a reason to think that if they are safe in adults, they wouldn’t be safe in children,’ he said.
Vaccine experts believe that pediatric trials could firstly start with older children before gradually moving to younger groups and adjusting the dosage levels. Kathrin Janson head of Pfizer’s vaccine Research and Development (R& D) has said that no serious safety concerns arose after 100 children between 12 and 15 were studied after vaccination. Pfizer says that a pediatric trial is planned.
Vaccines have been proven to save lives including children. Approximately 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths were able to be prevented among children born during a 20-year period due to vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)