Herd immunity, the point at which a population becomes resistant to the infection, is a difficult goal to achieve. For the US, 80% of the residents need to be vaccinated to reach this point. While COVID-19 vaccines are becoming widely available, the anti-vaxxing community continues to refuse them. In addition, some people who do get vaccinated may not show an improvement in COVID-19 immunity.
Because more than 23% of the US population are children below 18 years, “herd immunity might be hard to achieve without children being vaccinated,” said Dr. Emily Erbelding, of the National Institutes of Health. According to her, vaccinating children is the way to reopen schools.
To this end, Pfizer began testing its vaccines on children between 12 to 15 years around January. “Encouraged by the data from the 12 to 15 group” (Sharon Castillo, Pfizer spokesperson) they have subsequently decided to continue with trials in the younger group.
Initially, they will conduct a trial on a group of 144 children to determine the appropriate dosage i.e. 10, 20, or 30 micrograms. Having achieved that, the second trial group will be much larger, around 4500 children.
Duke University in North Carolina has administered the first vaccines of this trial to a pair of 9 year old twin girls.
Other Vaccine trials in Children
Last month, AstraZeneca began its vaccine trials in children aged between 6 months to 12 years. Moderna also began trials in the same age group earlier this month, while Johnson & Johnson is waiting for data from older children.
Of Pfizer’s trials, Dr. Kristin Oliver, Pediatrician and Vaccine expert from the Mount Sinai Hospital said:
“It sounds like a good plan, and it’s exciting that another Covid-19 vaccine is moving forward with trials in children.”
While Pfizer has received approval for administration of its vaccine in 16 to 18 year olds, that approval only took 2 months of data to convince the FDA.
According to Dr. Oliver, the FDA’s transparency around the vaccine trials and side effects are key to convince parents into letting their children be vaccinated.
“I think everyone has learned throughout this. The more transparent you can be, the better.”Dr. Kristen Oliver
The New York Times