Vaccine companies aim to lower age requirements


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Companies are preparing to allow children to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

With more than 76 million people fully vaccinated to protect against Covid-19 in the United States, there is hope for things to go back to normal after such a disastrous year. Families are now wondering when vaccines will be available for teens and children. Pfizer has recently announced that its Covid-19 vaccine is protective and safe for children up to 12-years-old. This is a huge step towards reopening schools in the fall. Vaccinating children of all ages is critical in order to slow down the pandemic. It will help middle and high school students go to school normally — to an extent — after a year of disruption. Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine; Moderna’s vaccine is expecting results by the middle of this year from a U.S. study in 12 to 17-year-olds. Johnson & Johnson has also announced plans to begin testing its vaccine in ages 12 to 18, and its CEO Alex Gorsky said that the company will likely have a vaccine available to children under 18 by this September.
In Pfizer’s vaccine study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15, initial data showed that there were no cases of Covid-19 among vaccinated individuals compared to 18 given placebos. The shots appear to have improved the kids’ immune systems and increased levels of virus-fighting antibodies. Multiple CDC studies have shown that Covid-19 isn’t as severe in children, particularly younger kids—but that doesn’t mean kids aren’t at risk of getting infected and potentially spreading the virus. Dr. John Christianson said the Pfizer vaccine has an excellent record when it comes to safety. “The FDA looks very carefully at side effects and one of the things they do is they will not release a vaccine to be used in children unless they’re certain it’s safe in adults and that’s been the case,” he said. He also noted that Pfizer’s phase three clinical trials show that the vaccine has not only been incredibly safe for children but also extremely effective.
The side effects of the vaccine are similar to the ones that adults experience. Children have reportedly experienced a fever, soreness at the injection site, and some muscle aches. There does not seem to be any major side effects. Christianson said that getting children vaccinated is the key to achieving herd immunity and returning to normalcy. He suspects that it won’t be long until younger children become eligible for the vaccine.
On Friday, April 9th, Pfizer gained permission from the Food and Drug Administration to expand emergency use of its vaccine and Pfizer has now started clinical trials and studies for children under the age of 12. It will soon include those as young as six months.
While there’s a chance that a vaccine will be available to high school and middle school age children by this all, younger children may still be months away from vaccination when the upcoming school year begins. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that younger children may need to wait a little longer for their vaccinations. He predicts that the vaccine will be given to children in the first quarter of 2022. Each vaccine will be carefully tested in pediatric populations until enough data is generated for the US Food and Drug Administration to evaluate whether it is safe and effective before it is released to the general population.
Most health experts and authorities, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, do not require a vaccination for attending in-person school for the next school year. They may add it later on as a degree of protection for students, school staff, and their families.
The United States hopes to regain a sense of normalcy in the country by reopening schools. The vaccines will be a huge step towards that achievement.