Drug companies Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are in the course of studies that will include testing their Covid vaccines in children.
Experts say that it’s critical to test vaccines in children through studies, it’s not safe to assume that because the vaccines work in adults that they will also be safe and successful in children. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for people 16 and older and Moderna’s vaccine is approved for those 18 and older.
“There’s a huge demand to find out about vaccinating kids and what it does,” said Dr. David Wohl, the medical director of the vaccine clinic at the University of North Carolina.
The studies will look for side effects and measure antibody levels to determine a dosage that will be safe and protective for each age group. Common vaccine side effects like fatigue, fever, sore arms, and achy joints and muscles can be more intense in children than adults. It’s important to know how children’s bodies are expected to react.
“Clinical outcome data will still be collected, but these trials are primarily concerned with adverse events and immune (or antibody) responses,” said Dr. Michael Chang, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston.
Moderna has begun a study testing its vaccine on children under 12 starting as young as six-month-old babies. The study is expected to include 6,750 healthy children from the U.S. and Canada. In a separate study, the company is testing its vaccine for 3000 children ages 12-17 and is expected to have results for that age group by summer.
“We are pleased to begin this Phase 2/3 study of mRNA-1273 in healthy children in the U.S. and Canada,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel explained in a press release. “This pediatric study will help us assess the potential safety and immunogenicity of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate in this important younger age population.”
Pfizer-BioNTech had also begun studying its vaccine in children starting with ages 12 to 15. Recently they are beginning to test the vaccine in young children ages six months to 11. Johnson & Johnson also plans to test its vaccine in adolescents and even newborns.
“They did not get into a lot of detail about it but did make it clear they will be pursuing pediatric and maternal coronavirus immunization studies,” Dr. Levy said regarding Johnson & Johnson’s trial plans.
Moderna and Pfizer’s trial with children ages 12 to 17 may have results by summer. And Pfizer expects results with infants in the second half of the year.
`“If you wipe out the infection in the younger children, they don’t spread it to the adults, and so then, you can get a big handle on disease just by targeting the younger children and getting the infection out of that age group,” says Dr. Robert Frenck, lead investigator of the COVID-19 vaccine trials at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.