Now that the U.S. is on the brink of approving its first coronavirus vaccine for widespread use, attention is turning to how the drugs may work in children.
Pfizer started including children in its U.S. trials in September and Moderna, which will face the FDA advisory panel next week, started its own trial for 12 to 17-year-olds on Thursday. Moderna hopes to recruit 3,000 participants and collect enough data to clear the vaccine for use in children by the start of the 2021 school year.
While kids tend not to get as sick from the virus, Bay Area hospitals counted 17 children among its COVID-19 patients this week.
"We have a lot of kids in this country who also need to be protected. There are some severe complications that do occur – less commonly in children for sure than adults, but also really something we can prevent is something we want to consider," said Stanford pediatrics professor Dr. Grace Lee, who sits on the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
It is not clear how dosages will need to be adjusted for growing bodies, although children do tend to tolerate vaccines better than adults and some data can be extrapolated from adult trials.
"How effective is the vaccine at preventing infection and taking a look at the corresponding immune response? And from there, we can learn a lot about how well a vaccine can work and what we can infer from that. Obviously older teens are far more similar to adults whereas young children are very different," said Dr. Lee.
Because the vaccines are not expected to be approved for children for some time and children are at lower risk of getting ill, some public health experts say vaccinating teachers will be a good first line of defense and preventing outbreaks in schools.