Do children need to be vaccinated for Covid-19? Currently there are no vaccines that have been approved for children under the age of 16 years. If a vaccine was approved for children under the age of 16 years, would you want your child to be vaccinated?
None of the three vaccines currently approved for use in the U.S. has been tested in children. But Moderna has begun studying its Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 6 months to 11 years in the U.S. and Canada, according to Peter Loftus, writing in The Wall Street Journal. Moderna released information recently that the first children have received doses in the study, which Moderna is conducting in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“This pediatric study will help us assess the potential safety and immunogenicity of our Covid-19 vaccine candidate in this important younger age population,” said Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel. Currently the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for use in adults age 18 years or older, while the Pfizer vaccine is approved for us in adults 16 years or older.
Covid-19 is much deadlier in the elderly population. Over 80% of deaths have occurred in individuals over 75 years old. Yet, there is a small, but important risk in children, especially those with immunocompromised health. Vaccines approved for use in children would protect them as well as further build the population-level immunity to move past pandemic restrictions.
“These kids can get coronavirus infection and the problem is they can spread this infection to other individuals,” said Tina Q. Tan, attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Tan says vaccines can be important in children because some infants and toddlers go to daycare and could transmit the virus.
This new Moderna study is a combined Phase 2 and Phase 3 trial, enrolling about 6,750 children and will be conducted in two parts. The first part will test different dose levels of the vaccine in children. Researchers will examine the safety and immune response to the various doses to determine which to carry into the second part of the study. In the second part, other study subjects will be randomized to receive two doses of either Moderna’s vaccine or a placebo, 28 days apart. Researchers will then track the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Safety is especially important in this study of children, much more than in adults, since the virus usually causes very mild or asymptomatic disease. The benefits of the vaccine are extremely high in senior adults, whose lives are definitely at risk. But these benefits are much less significant in children. Nevertheless, a safe and effective vaccine for children could be an important step in giving parents assurances that their children can return to schools without concern.
Federal health officials have suggested that if studies are positive, junior and senior-high students could get access to vaccines in the fall, followed by children of elementary-school age in early 2022.