When Will Children Get the Coronavirus Vaccine?

Adults who are waiting to vaccinate their children for coronavirus may have to wait till after the summer. Pfizer and Moderna enrolled children over 12 in clinical trials of their vaccines and depending on the results, the companies may test the vaccines in younger children. Then, they have to get authorization from The Food and Drug Administration to organize a rollout. This process will take a few weeks. To make sense of this timeline, it’s important to understand how the vaccine works for children.

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Usually vaccines – except pneumococcal or meningococcal bacteria which prevent pediatric diseases – are always tested in adults first. Then researchers move down the age bracket, noting changes in doses and side effects. When the coronavirus vaccines first started being developed, older adults were the priority since this category of people were more vulnerable to serious illnesses, complications, and death if they were infected. Even though people under 21 made up less than 1 percent of deaths from COVID-19, about 2 percent of children who had contracted the virus required hospital care.  

This puts pressure on drug companies to perfect the vaccine for children. Another thing to consider is the fact that vaccinating children will allow the United States to reach herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when the pandemic slows down because the virus can no longer infect people. 

As more contagious variants of the virus emerge, scientists have estimated that at least 90 percent of the population will have to be immunized to reach herd immunity. Besides, immunizing children in racial populations that have been hard hit by the pandemic will protect vulnerable communities.

Since it isn’t feasible to conduct clinical trials on children at the same scale as adults, scientists have adopted a strategy that involves looking at vaccinated children for signs of a strong immune response.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has recruited 2,259 adolescents from 12 to 15 for its trials, the results of which should be available by the summer. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers are twice as likely to be infected as younger children.