Experts weigh in on COVID-19 vaccine for kids, encourage participation in pediatric trials

Posted at 5:45 AM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 07:51:48-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Currently, there are a couple of companies already in the process of starting clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids. Experts say there will be several more in the coming months.

“It’s very important that trials in pediatrics are done because children can get infected with COVID and they also can suffer consequences and sometimes long term consequences. Even if the number of people dying from COVID-19 in pediatrics is very different to adults, still they are over what the amount of children, who for example, die from influenza every year. It’s really important to target vaccinations to pediatrics,” said Dr. Carina Rodriguez, Professor of Pediatrics and Division Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of South Florida.

The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people ages 16 and older, while Moderna is approved for people 18 and older. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is also set to be approved for people 18 and older.

There are multiple pharmaceutical companies that are working right now to develop a COVID-19 vaccine for children.

“We know that if we want to control the pandemic it really has vaccinations to happen across all ages. I think the emphasis on pediatrics is important and it’s also recognized by the people leading the COVID vaccine efforts,” said Rodriguez.

Experts say one reason a COVID-19 vaccine for kids is taking longer is that it’s much easier to get adults to participate in clinical trials than it is to get kids for pediatric trials.

That’s why researchers are also looking at data from adult trials as they move forward.

“If we know what works within adults, even if it’s not the same, but we can extrapolate, so it’s something that we call correlation of immunity. So we put that knowledge into what we would be looking for in younger patients,” said Rodriguez.

Medical experts say companies typically will first work on a vaccine for kids ages 12 and up or 15 and up, before getting data for younger children.

“It may be too soon, let’s say for younger infants and younger children. Usually, we’ll get more information first in teens and then data from younger patients will be available,” said Rodriguez.

While it may be possible that children of a certain age will be able to get one of the vaccines that have already been approved for adults, researchers must first conduct clinical trials to see if that’s the case, or if they’ll need a different version to make sure kids are getting the correct dose.

“For some vaccines, they are given the same dose, but there are other vaccines that children actually require a higher dose than older people. So not everything is the same and that’s why we need to try the different doses… younger may actually be okay with half of the dose or a quarter of the dose,” said Rodriguez.

Experts say it likely won’t be until late summer that data from pediatric trials are available.

“We want to make sure that the vaccines are safe,” said Rodriguez.

In the meantime, they’re encouraging families to participate in clinical trials if they can, to help advance the process.