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When children 11 and younger might be eligible for coronavirus vaccine

Posted at 4:46 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 19:48:13-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - Less than one week into children 12 and older being eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, and Pfizer already has trials underway for children 11 and younger.

Trials started for children ages 5 to 11 in March. This will move slower than previous expansions because scientists are doing de-escalation studies, which means testing smaller doses. It’s expected that young children will likely not need a full dose, but it hasn’t yet been determined how much smaller and for what age. Because of this analysis, it will take longer to complete trials on this age group.

Completion of trials and approval for ages 5 to 11 might not come until fall 2021. Then, the focus will shift to ages 2 and older, with those trials likely expanding into 2022.

Moderna is currently finalizing trials on people 12 and older, and that approval could come this summer.

Doctor Christian Ramers, an Infectious Disease Specialist and Chief of Population Health at Family Health Centers of San Diego, said there are two main reasons these younger ages will take longer. The first is finding the right dose size and the second is that studies show younger children do not spread coronavirus as rapidly as older children and adults.

“Unlike influenza, which little kids are pretty efficient at spreading, it looks like the older kids really spread covid a little bit more so it’s kind of less important to go way down to those age groups,” he said.

He added that with many California colleges now requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for in-person learning, it seems likely that children will also eventually be required.

“You require vaccinations. We do it for measles, we do it for chickenpox, we do it for other things. We don’t want COVID outbreaks in our schools, that’s just going to shut us down again and cause kids to go into a hybrid or remote learning. When the vaccine gets approved, we’re going to make it a requirement, so might as well do it now,” he said.

Doctor Marsha Spitzer, the Chief of Pediatrics at Family Health Centers of San Diego, said she’s already had many conversations with parents about the safety surrounding vaccinating kids. She said in her experience, after she answers questions, parents feel more comfortable, so she advises families to turn to their family doctors and pediatricians for guidance.

“Often it’s just a matter of getting the right information to families and getting that information from their pediatrician is one of the most trusted sources you can hope for,” she said.

Doctor Ramers and Doctor Spitzer both emphasize that while transmission might not be as high for children and the death rate remains low, it’s still possible. They said In the United States, 15,000 children have had coronavirus so severely that they had to be hospitalized, and 300 children have died from the virus.

“This is a real disease in children, they can get sick, they can get sick enough to be hospitalized, and they can die from COVID. Albeit at a much lower percentage than adults but it still happens,” said Doctor Ramers.

Doctor Spitzer added that there are other impacts on children as well, and the sooner they’re able to be vaccinated and return back to normal life, the better.

“I would say not only are we seeing children with COVID, we’re seeing all the secondary effects. We’re seeing kids who are not doing physical activity, who have had problems with huge weight gain, problems with depression and anxiety and stress. The path out for that is not just immunizing all of our adults but our children,” said Doctor Spitzer.