Another vaccine maker has begun clinical trials with kids. Pfizer is now testing its vaccines for babies and children from ages 6 months to 11 years. The company had previously kicked off trials for kids 12 and up, and its shot is already approved for use with teens 16 and up.
Pfizer will reportedly test three dosing amounts in 144 children. Each dose will be tested in different age ranges, including 5 through 11 years old, then 2 through 4 years, and then in babies and toddlers six months to 2 years old.
Moderna also recently began vaccinating babies and kids for the first time, with a trial that includes nearly 7,000 children.
Moderna says the KidCOVE study will include kids from the U.S. and Canada who are between 6 months and 11 years old. Participants will be followed for a year after getting their doses to gauge how well it protects them, and whether there are any side effects.
More than 130 million vaccine doses have been administered to adults so far, but there's still a long way to go. For kids, the timeline is not yet known. Johnson and Johnson has said it hopes to have a Covid-19 vaccine for kids ready in September, but hasn't said which specific age groups it would target.
Children have accounted for about 13% of all Covid-19 cases in the U.S. since the pandemic began, according to the New York Times, and around 260 have died of the virus.
Those numbers may make some parents more interested in signing their children up for trials. Dr. Sarah Hasan, a researcher with DM Clinical Research, spoke with KHOU 11 News about how a Moderna trial for kids in Houston works. She explained that volunteers will be monitored for 13 months and will return for several follow-up visits with doctors.
"Being a part of the study gives kids a chance to get protection sooner rather than later," said Hasan. "They have a 2 in 1 chance to get vaccine over the placebo. If these kids are out there getting the vaccine at least they're getting the protection and able to go back to school faster and safer as well."
The Texas Center for Drug Development celebrated the inclusion of kids in their study with a post online.
"This is history in the making! We want to congratulate our CyFair team for dosing the first pediatric Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine volunteer!" they posted on LinkedIn.
If you're on the fence about whether to vaccinate your child because of how quickly scientists were able to create the vaccine, medical experts don't want you to worry.
"One of the things that the public really should understand is that the ability to speed up, quote, 'speed up the proces' here has nothing to do with shortening or changing or taking shortcuts with the very careful safety and efficacy evaluations," Dr. Roberta DeBiasi, head of pediatric infectious diseases at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. told NPR.
"The part that was able to be speeded up was because of the technology of these two vaccines and the ability to develop the vaccine with a piece of message RNA rather than some of the other methods that we've used for over 50 years that are very, very time-consuming to actually get to the point where you can put it into a human trial. But what I think is super important for the public to know is that once the product was available and went into the usual clinical trials, there have been no shortcuts."
In other words, when a full pediatric vaccine is available, you can rest assured knowing that our nation's top medical experts are confident that it will be safe and effective.
When the vaccine is widely available for children, will families be required to get it?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told Newsweek that he doesn't believe there will be a national mandate when it comes to the vaccine.
Dr. Fauci on mandatory COVID Vaccines: "Everything will be on the table" https://t.co/n4eDfIikuX
— Newsweek (@Newsweek)
"I'm not sure it's [the COVID-19 vaccine] going to be mandatory from a central government standpoint, like federal government mandates," Dr. Fauci explained. But there are going to be individual institutions that I'm sure are going to mandate it."
Dr. Fauci explained that many hospitals require employees to be vaccinated against influenza and Hepatitis B.
"Here at the NIH [National Institutes of Health], I would not be allowed to see patients if I didn't get vaccinated every year with flu and get vaccinated once with Hepatitis [B]. I have to get certified every year…if I didn't, I couldn't see patients."
It's likely that businesses and organizations may require their employees and patrons to be vaccinated; it's unlikely that the mandate will come from the federal government.
What about schools? When the time comes, will your child be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to enroll in school?
"That is possible but that's something that's mandated at the state level and city level," said Dr. Fauci. "A citywide school system might require it in some cities but not other cities. And that's what I mean by things not being done centrally but locally."
There's still a lot we don't know about the COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists aren't sure if a single, two-shot dose will protect patients for life or if we'll need regular booster shots. Scientists are confident that the vaccine prevents the clinical disease but they're still not sure it if also prevents transmission. And studies are underway to determine how much of the dose children actually require and how the vaccine will affect them.
But this is the beauty of science and technology. The best minds in America and around the world are actively working to bring us answers to these questions. Studies are underway right now, collecting data so scientists can learn more about this novel coronavirus. When a full pediatric vaccine is available, it will be only after scientists have proven, with data, that it's safe.
For now, the best thing you can do to keep your family safe is to continue social distancing, mask wearing, and practicing good hygiene. Get vaccinated if you can and talk with your kids about the important work our medical experts are doing around the clock.
To find out if there's an active vaccine trial in your area, contact your child's pediatrician.