More than eight months after adults started receiving the Covid-19 vaccination, kids under 12 still aren’t eligible to receive any of the Covid-19 vaccines. Now with school on the to-do list across the country, many parents are worried about what that means for their children’s health — and the health of everyone in their family.
Where’s the Vaccine for Kids?
Kids can catch Covid-19 and pass it on to other kids – and the adults in their lives, but they are less likely to become seriously sick. About 4.5 million children have already been infected with the virus according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. And there has been a recent uptick in kids getting Covid this summer likely due to the Delta variant, health experts think.
As of now, only kids 12 and up can take the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination (recently named Comirnaty). The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines haven’t yet been studied fully in the pediatric population.
When pharma traditionally introduces new vaccinations, they start trials with adults and then move to adolescent trials. After adolescents, comes the 5–11-year-old set, then 2–5-year-olds, and finally infants older than six months. Babies under six months old may have some protection leftover from their vaccinated mothers.
Experts say Pfizer may have the children’s aged 5-11 studies completed within the next month to six weeks and in the younger sets early next year. Then it’s on to the FDA for approval and/ or emergency use authorization, which will likely be this time next year or later for both the grade school and preschool sets. The process for the Moderna vaccine is similar, and Moderna is set to follow vaccine rollout shortly behind Pfizer. No word on Johnson & Johnson yet.
Interestingly, the U.K.’s joint committee on vaccination and immunization just recommended that healthy kids between 12 and 15 don’t need any vaccination. They’re saying the health benefits to kids in this age range that don’t have underlying conditions aren’t great enough to warrant universal vaccines for healthy adolescents.
What About Giving Kids the Adult Vaccine?
Since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been FDA-approved, technically doctors could order it for anyone, including young kids, but the FDA and leading pediatricians are warning that giving a vaccine dosed for adults to young kids is a terrible idea and likely would be accompanied by unnecessary and potentially serious side effects.
It’s not safe to give young children any of the adult Covid-19 vaccines. That’s why they are currently in clinical trials trying to study the dose in each age group.
In fact, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trials for kids younger than 12 are being tested with various dosages. The vaccine is the same but the younger the age, the smaller the dose that’s likely needed, says experts familiar with clinical trials.
After a Children’s Vaccine Gets Approval
After the vaccine is approved for children under 12, it may be mandated by schools in the same way measles and polio vaccination is before attending. Health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics will likely recommend when children should get vaccinated once it’s widely available.
Each state regulates which vaccines are required for school entry. In addition, private schools are governed by their own sets of regulations and may require kids to have the Covid vaccination for school entry once there is an approved vaccine for each age group.
Meanwhile, parents are left trying to keep kids safe and minimize the risk of Covid-19 as kids head back to the classroom. Whether your child attends in-person or virtual school, the strategies we’ve been using through the past 18 months are still in play: masks, good ventilation, social distancing when possible, frequent testing, and vaccination of the adults and adolescents in children’s lives.