Local doctors explain when a COVID-19 vaccine might be deemed safe for kids, and why they'll need it

New Bill Would Let Kids Get Vaccinated Without Their Parents’ Consent
Posted at 11:28 PM, Feb 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 03:19:27-05

TAMPA, Fla. — As COVID-19 vaccination pace picks up among adults, many parents are left wondering “when will we know if it’s safe for children to get vaccinated, and do they actually need to be?”

They’re good questions, especially since we know kids don’t typically get as sick with the virus. But two local doctors warn, there are still plenty of reasons for children to get vaccinated, once a vaccine is deemed safe.

“This trial that Pfizer and Moderna are doing right now, really is mostly a safety trial,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an Associate Professor at USF.

The two drug companies the FDA has granted an Emergency Use Authorization for in the adult age group are currently working on pediatric trials.

“Children are always the ones they want to go to last, because they want to make sure it’s safe in all the adult population before they go to kids,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished Professor and Codirector for the Center for Global Health and Infectious Diseases Research in the College of Public Health at USF.

Pfizer’s pediatric trials are furthest ahead, so far enrolling around 2,259 children ages 12 to 15 years old in their first pediatric trial. Pfizer says they expect to have results in the first half of 2021.

“I think by the middle of April they’ll have the answer,” said Dr. Unnasch.

And as long as their vaccine is deemed safe, they’ll move on to their next age group.

“Hopefully it’s effective too, but it has to be safe,” said Dr. Teng.

That’s step one. So how about the need for children to get vaccinated when we know kids don’t typically get as sick with the virus?

“Children don’t get really sick as a result of this. But all the adults that they have contact with, and especially parents and grandparents, can get very sick,” said Dr. Unnasch.

And while there are fewer severe cases of the virus in kids, they’re not completely unheard of.

“We’ve had, even in Tampa Bay, under 10 year old kids die of COVID. So this is not something that is benign in children at all, it’s just less, there’s less mortality compared to the elderly population.” said Dr. Teng.

Both Dr. Teng and Dr. Unnasch warn that a path toward herd immunity includes kids.

“They talk about 80-85 percent of the population. Well that, by definition, includes children,” said Dr. Unnasch.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor told ProPublica just last week that he expects children can likely start getting vaccinated before the fall. That’s something that will become more clear as pediatric trials convene.