Why It’s Taking Longer to Get a COVID-19 Vax for Kids Under 12

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Why It’s Taking Longer to Get a COVID-19 Vax for Kids Under 12

Parents may be want to know when and if a coronavirus vaccine will be available to children under 12 – especially as booster doses are likely to soon

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  • Parents may be want to know when and if a coronavirus vaccine will be available to children under 12 – especially as booster doses are likely to soon be released for adults.
  • Right now, about 1 in 4 new COVID-19 cases are in children.
  • Children under 12 account for approximately 50 million people in the U.S. That large subset of the population currently does not qualify for a vaccine.

COVID-19 is affecting millions in the United States, and as children go back to school, there’s an increasing uptick in cases of the virus in school-age children.

After seeing a decline in U.S. cases, many parents are becoming more concerned — the virus impacts those who are not vaccinated, including children. About one in four new COVID-19 cases are now in children.

Parents are starting to wonder when and if a coronavirus vaccine will be available to children under 12 years old, especially as booster doses are likely to soon be released for adults.

Children under 12 account for approximately 50 million people in the United States. That is the largest subset of the population that currently does not qualify for a vaccine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that children made up 26.8 percent of new COVID-19 cases for the week ending Sept. 2. That is an exponential increase in cases with compared to the start of the pandemic and means that nearly 252,000 children developed COVID-19 that week.

“The pressure has increased right now to have a vaccine for those under 12 because we continue to see more reports and real data showing that children under 12 are getting affected more by this pandemic, especially with this new strain,” says Dr. Flor Munoz-Rivas, associate professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Baylor College of Medicine and investigator of the pediatric trials at Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.

Although it is difficult to say exactly when the vaccine will become available — research teams are currently conducting studies to collect data for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — some experts believe it will be available by this winter.

Munoz-Rivas estimates it will be available in the next few months.

She told Healthline, “I have very high confidence that it will be by the end of the year. When exactly by the end of the year, it’s difficult to say.”

Munoz-Rivas understands the urgency of this vaccine and says the world we live in today is different than one year ago when many people had the mindset that children weren’t affected by this pandemic.

While it may seem as though the vaccine is taking longer for children under 12 years old, health experts want to ensure the vaccine’s safety in this younger population.

Dr. C. Buddy Creech, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program and professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Healthline that it is taking longer as we can’t assume the same dosage of the vaccine used in adults is the same as children.

“These studies take several months to complete before we move into larger studies,” Creech said.

He continued, “For example, since children appear to respond very well to COVID mRNA vaccines, we may determine that a much smaller dose – one half, one quarter, or even one-tenth of the dose – is needed to generate immune responses that are similar to what occurs in adults.”

In May, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine in adolescents 12 years old and older. Shortly thereafter, the Moderna vaccine became available as well.

Since the approval, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that everyone 12 years old and older get a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC also contends that the vaccines have been used under the most intensive safety monitoring systems in U.S. history.

Both mRNA vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, have already started conducting clinical trials in children under 12.

The vaccine schedule will likely be the same as for adults, but the dosing for children will be different.

Creech says, “Right now, all of the studies are using the same schedule and timing for children – a 3-week interval for Pfizer’s vaccine and a 4-week interval for Moderna.

“We may learn over time, however, that extending the interval between doses is more advantageous immunologically for those that are at relatively lower risk of disease complications,” he continued.

Compared to the pandemic’s beginning, children under 12 years old are far more likely to develop COVID-19 now.

As the Delta variant has spread and as many states have stopped masking or physical and social distancing requirements, the number of children becoming sick has gone up.

While many children do not get very sick, the increase in overall pediatric COVID-19 cases has meant a sharp increase in children needing to be hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Munoz-Rivas still encourages the use of masks, practicing physical and social distancing, and handwashing as ways to mitigate this virus.

“Vaccination is just one way, and while a very important way, to control a pandemic, we are not at that the point with numbers where we can stop wearing our masks.”

Rajiv Bahl, MD, MBA, MS, is an emergency medicine physician and health writer. You can find him at www.RajivBahlMD.com.

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