The first CoVID-19 vaccine has received emergency use authorization, and a second vaccine may follow later this week. However, it is likely that children and adolescents will not receive immunizations against CoVID-19 in the near future.
Neither Pfizer nor Moderna have completed Phase 3 clinical trials in children. Pfizer began studying CoVID children’s immunizations in October when it first enrolled participants aged 12-16, and Moderna announced last week that it will begin administering children’s immunizations to older kids and teens (also aged 12-17) soon. Neither company has vaccinated kids under 12 in its research trials yet.
I suspect that CoVID-19 vaccine trials in adolescents might be complete by mid to late spring. If they are confirmed both safe and effective, adolescents might be immunized beginning in the summer or fall. Vaccines for younger children might become available after this time.
I would not expect that Carolina Kids Pediatrics or other Raleigh, NC, pediatricians would administer CoVID vaccines to children and adolescents until rigorous Phase 3 trials in each age group have been completed, had been reviewed and endorsed by the FDA, by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
So, how do CoVID vaccines work?
The first two vaccines to come to the U.S. market are mRNA vaccines. These vaccines use a small piece of genetic material from the virus which will then create the CoVID spike proteins in the body – this is the protein that must be neutralized by antibodies in order to develop immunity to CoVID-19. These vaccines do not contain a living virus and therefore cannot cause infection in the person who is getting immunized. They also do not alter the genetic code of the person getting the vaccine.
According to Pfizer and Moderna, each vaccine is about 95% effective in preventing symptomatic CoVID infection, although it’s unclear how long this protection will last. A booster dose is necessary several weeks after a person is initially vaccinated.
The first CoVID vaccines in Raleigh, NC, and elsewhere in the country, will go to high-risk health care workers and the elderly – residents of nursing homes and chronic care facilities will likely be among the first to be vaccinated. So, your children may be later in the line for CoVID vaccines, but your children’s doctors and nurses may be immunized by spring – although we believe that health care workers who work in ICUs and hospital CoVID units will and should be immunized first.
Am I confident rolling up my own sleeve to be vaccinated? Absolutely. I am satisfied that these vaccines are receiving an appropriate level of evaluation and scrutiny, and I look forward to the day when widespread CoVID immunizations will begin to interrupt the cycle of transmission which has paralyzed so much of the country and the world.
I believe that the vaccine which was authorized this week is safe and highly effective in preventing CoVID-19 in adults. As a pediatrician, I do have one additional comment about the authorization of the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccine was authorized for individuals age 16 and higher – but the number of patients in Pfizer’s Phase 3 clinical trial between 16 and 18 years old was much smaller than the tens of thousands of adults over 18 who were enrolled. Although the vaccine appeared to be safe and effective in the 16-18-year-olds in the trial, I would be interested in seeing a Pfizer trial with larger numbers of adolescents, which is in progress. Regardless, the priority in these early days is not – and should not be – the vaccination of healthy teenagers.
For all the kids out there, I am also pleased to announce that the CDC has declared Santa an essential worker, and he is now fully immunized against CoVID-19 – so don’t worry about him coming to your house in a couple of weeks. The reindeer appear to have natural immunity.
If you have other questions about children’s immunizations, please reach out to our Raleigh, NC, team of pediatricians at (919) 881-9009.
Carolina Kids Pediatrics