Doctors can’t always tell which children are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19. A vaccine will lower their chances of serious complications. It’ll also help protect older adults around them who are high risk.
In addition, children under 21 make up about 25% of the U.S. population. If many of them get a vaccine, the chance of herd immunity goes up. That’s when a lot of people are immune to a specific disease. If enough people are resistant to the cause of a disease, such as a virus or bacteria, it has no one to infect.
Vaccine Trials for Children
The FDA garnted emergency use authorization the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those age 16 and older. The Moderna and Janssen vaccines are for those 18 and older. These vaccines still mainly target adults, but some states also prioritize older children with intellectual/developmental disabilities or other medical conditions.
Pfizer finished a clinical trial for children 12-15 years old and will soon start trials for younger ages. Moderna recently began vaccine studies for children 6 months to 11 years old and another for ages 12 to 17. Johnson & Johnson plans to start similar trials soon.
Once vaccines reach approval for all children, the rollout will probably be like the distribution seen in adults, with higher-risk groups going first.
Why Vaccines for Children Take Longer
Children weren’t a part of the original clinical trials because they’re generally not as vulnerable as adults. The majority of the deaths during the pandemic -- 92% -- have been people age 55 and older.
This doesn’t mean that children are immune to COVID-19. They simply have a lower chance of serious complications from the virus.
Another reason trials focused on adults first was speed. There are more levels of protection when children are involved in clinical trials. So it made sense to study an adult vaccine first to move quickly.
Scientists also need more time to research children’s vaccines because their immune systems change fast. This means that a child’s body might respond differently to a vaccine depending on their age. It’ll take longer to study these differences to make sure the vaccines are safe.
We don’t yet know if children can take a COVID-19 vaccine with another type of immunization. But the CDC recommends adults wait at least 2 weeks after COVID-19 vaccination before getting something else, if possible.
Here’s what you can do in the meantime to keep your child safe, especially if they’re in a high-risk group: