With the proliferation of COVID-19 vaccines that have been recently developed, one demographic seemed to be left out: kids. Up until recently, the parents of anyone under the age of 16 had no vaccine options to consider for their children. But that appears to be changing.
Major pharmaceutical companies have made announcements regarding the development and testing of vaccines for teens, adolescents, and younger children. This is great news, certainly. But where do things really stand right now?
Why Can’t Kids Get One of the Existing Vaccines?
To put it simply, currently available vaccines have only been tested on adults. And so they are only approved by the FDA for use in adults (16 and older).
To be adequately protected from the virus, children may require different dosages than adults. How much more or less is currently being worked out in pharmaceutical testing groups. And their younger immune systems could react differently (as in, badly) to existing vaccine formulas. So, that also needs to be carefully tested.
What’s Available Now?
As of this writing, there’s nothing available for the public yet. But several promising vaccines for children are currently in development and testing.
Most recently, Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that they have a vaccine that has worked 100% in clinical trials of children aged 12-15. If all goes well with the FDA approval process, it could be approved for distribution in early fall. The company has also started trials for children 6-11.
Moderna is testing a vaccine for children 6 months to 12 years old. And Johnson & Johnson have outlined their own plans to start testing on young children and adolescents.
Why Did Pharmaceutical Companies Wait So Long?
Adults still form the greater proportion of the population. And, since COVID-19 complications appear to affect older people more than younger ones, vaccine development for adults necessarily took priority over those for children.
But now that adult vaccines appear to be working relatively safely and effectively, pharmaceutical companies have been able to build off of that foundation to develop vaccines specifically for kids. This enables a certain amount of swiftness when it comes to development. But safety protocols still need to be followed when it comes to testing and approval. And those things take time.
Is It Really Important to Vaccinate Kids?
It’s true that, on the whole, children do not appear to suffer from as many severe complications as adults. But there have been some. A vaccine for kids could help to protect younger people with diabetes, asthma, and other pre-existing conditions.
The bigger issue is herd immunity. Technically, it could be reached without the help of a vaccine; just let COVID-19 infect healthy people who can fight if off. But a vaccine can theoretically help us reach herd immunity faster, with fewer cases of severe illness and fewer lives lost in the process. Being as how they are roughly 25% of the U.S. population, children are a big part of the equation.
No, there’s not a vaccine available yet for children. But it looks like at least one is coming soon for adolescents and teens, and hopefully others shortly thereafter for babies and younger children. At the current pace, experts say full vaccine coverage is possible by the first part of 2022. So, just a little while longer…
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