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Pfizer Wins Approval to Add Kids as Young as 12 to COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

young girl receiving a coronavirus vaccine

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Key Takeaways

  • The full extent of the effects of the COVID-19 virus on children is not fully understood, but it is known that kids are often asymptomatic carriers.
  • It's important for drug companies to ensure the COVID-19 vaccination is safe and effective for kids as well as adults.
  • Pfizer will test its vaccination on kids ages 12 and up.

In partnership with German biotechnology company BioNTech, Pfizer is set to include kids as young as 12 in their latest COVID-19 trials. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, dubbed BNT162, is currently in late-stage clinical trials. Despite being a long way from the finish line, things have gone smoothly so far, according to Pfizer. The vaccine has shown promise as a safe and effective means to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. government placed an initial order of 100 million doses with the option to purchase 500 million additional doses.” Now, the vaccine will be tested on a younger audience. 

Kids Are Important Addition to Vaccine Trials

Multiple recent studies indicate that kids can, in fact, spread the virus despite remaining largely asymptomatic.

Concerns remain that kids and adolescents can unknowingly carry the virus and spread it among more vulnerable populations like older family members or those with existing health conditions. That’s one of the main reasons why health experts are keen on including younger people in COVID-19 vaccine trials. 

Kelly Moore, MD, MPH, associate director of immunization education at the Immunization Action Coalition says, “Pfizer’s decision to expand the size of its clinical trial to 44,000 and to lower the age of participants will provide some additional information about the safety and side effects of the vaccine in this age group.”

Kelly Moore, MD, MPH

Pfizer’s decision to expand the size of its clinical trial to 44,000 and to lower the age of participants will provide some additional information about the safety and side effects of the vaccine in this age group.

— Kelly Moore, MD, MPH

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Pfizer approval for the trials with the backing of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “As pediatricians, we must also stress how crucial it is for children to be included in vaccine trials of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines,” the organization wrote in support of the vaccine.

Will the COVID Vaccine Be Safe for Kids? 

Critical for any new vaccine though, is public perception of safety. And that’s no different for the COVID-19 vaccine. With the glut of misinformation circulating about vaccine safety, parents who perceive the slightest hint of risk associated with a COVID-19 vaccine will be far less likely to subject their kids to the injection. And quelling the spread of this contagious virus will depend largely on high rates of vaccinations.

It’s a concern that’s top of mind for the AAP, which states: “For a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to be effective in controlling the pandemic, it must not only be safe and effective, but must also be embraced by medical providers and the public. [We must] ensure that the national approach to the coronavirus pandemic not compromise the trust that American parents have in our existing safe and effective approach to the vaccination of children.”

The inclusion of younger participants should certainly help with this, as parents can take comfort in the knowledge that kids have successfully received a COVID vaccine without dangerous side effects. 

Vaccine Trial Progress

Although President Trump continues to claim that a COVID vaccine is right around the corner, the reality is that a fully tested, effective vaccine could still be many months away. Normally, vaccines take years to develop, but researchers are hoping to fast-track a vaccine for COVID.

Moore says, “Right now, we do not have the results of the Phase 3 trials, so we do not know much about what they are finding yet. The trials are double-blind, so investigators do not know whether any symptoms or issues observed in these trials are occurring among vaccine or placebo recipients.”

Despite that, there have been no reports of major illness or serious issues in any of Pfizer's participants to date, according to the company. However, "small trials among healthy adults have shown that these vaccines do cause common side effects, including pain at the injection site, as well as mild flu-like symptoms for a day or so in some recipients," says Moore.

What This Means for You

There’s a long way to go before everyone who wants to get a COVID-19 vaccine is able to get one. But drug companies around the world are currently racing to the finish line, working hard to create a vaccine that’s safe and effective for people of all ages.

Pfizer’s inclusion of kids as young as 12 in their clinical trials is a step forward for vaccine development. If your child is eligible to be a part of the trials and receive the vaccine, it may be something to consider.

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