USA TODAY US Edition

Chil­dren have to wait for vac­cine

They’re not in­cluded in trials de­ter­min­ing safety

- Karen Wein­traub

Chil­dren are not in­cluded in the on­go­ing trials for a COVID-19 vac­cine, so it’s likely to be well into next year or be­yond be­fore they’ll be able to get a vac­cine.

Some say that’s not a prob­lem be­cause the vast ma­jor­ity of chil­dren don’t get se­verely ill from COVID-19.

Oth­ers ar­gue that kids can still pass on the virus – to teach­ers, par­ents, grand­par­ents – and that we won’t be able to truly end the pan­demic with­out vac­ci­nat­ing chil­dren.

In a Mon­day con­ver­sa­tion with re­porters, Emory Univer­sity School of Medicine pe­di­atric in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist Dr. Evan An­der­son called for a rapid ex­pan­sion of clin­i­cal trials to in­clude chil­dren, ideally pro­vid­ing re­sults in time for them to be vac­ci­nated be­fore the 2021 school year.

“We owe it to our chil­dren not to de­lay mov­ing for­ward with ini­tial stud­ies to eval­u­ate promis­ing vac­cine can­di­dates,” said An­der­son, also at Chil­dren’s Health­care of At­lanta, and an in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the Moderna-Na­tional

In­sti­tute for Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases trial of the can­di­date vac­cine mRNA-1273.

Child­hood deaths from COVID-19 are ap­proach­ing those from the an­nual flu, An­der­son said and re­ported in a pa­per pub­lished Fri­day with col­leagues. Both in­fec­tion and death rates from COVID-19 are close to those caused by hep­ati­tis A and vari­cella be­fore those vac­cines were in­tro­duced, he said.

De­spite those sta­tis­tics, Dr. Barry Bloom, an im­mu­nol­o­gist at the Har­vard T.H. Chan School of Pub­lic Health, said he thinks it’s bet­ter to wait un­til trials in adults have shown which can­di­date vac­cine is likely the safest for chil­dren.

Then, Bloom said, trials should be launched first in ar­eas that have good record-keep­ing on child­hood vac­ci­na­tions. Good data, he said, is es­sen­tial

to keep track of any side ef­fects from the vac­cines.

He sug­gests vac­ci­nat­ing ev­ery­one in a school at once – stu­dents, teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors – “so ev­ery­one in that school is equally pro­tected.”

Role of young peo­ple in dis­ease

Young peo­ple ages 15-30 are the big­gest trans­mit­ters of the coro­n­avirus, Bloom said, be­cause they are the most so­cial and the least likely to wear masks and main­tain so­cial dis­tance.

To pre­vent the virus’ spread, it makes sense to vac­ci­nate this age co­hort in par­tic­u­lar, he said. But this is also a dif­fi­cult group to reach, be­cause they aren’t al­ready on the sched­ule for vac­ci­na­tions, and of­ten skip an­nual phys­i­cals.

Chil­dren have been largely spared the worst ef­fects of COVID-19, rep­re­sent­ing more than a quar­ter of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion but less than 0.1% of deaths, said Dr. Paul Of­fit, di­rec­tor of the Vac­cine Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter and an at­tend­ing physi­cian at Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Philadel­phia.

Of­fit said he thinks vac­ci­na­tions for peo­ple un­der 18 should be phased in, start­ing with ado­les­cents and slowly mov­ing down to younger kids.

Dosage may also be dif­fer­ent with age, as it is with the diph­the­ria and per­tus­sis vac­cine, so that will take time to work out, he said.

Cor­po­rate per­spec­tive

The drug com­pa­nies also are tak­ing dif­fer­ent strate­gies to in­clud­ing chil­dren and ado­les­cents in clin­i­cal trials.

Pfizer has al­ready low­ered the age of its trial par­tic­i­pants to 16, look­ing to test the vac­cine for safety and ef­fec­tive­ness in older high school­ers. The com­pany also is work­ing with reg­u­la­tors on a plan to study younger chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to spokesman Steven Danehy.

“The ear­lier we can un­der­stand the safety and ef­fi­cacy of this pop­u­la­tion, the sooner they will be able to re­ceive our po­ten­tial vac­cine, if ap­proved, and the sooner we will be able to de­ter­mine if the vac­ci­na­tion of chil­dren could prove an im­por­tant pub­lic health strat­egy to pre­vent spread of SARSCoV-2,” he said in an email.

Sim­i­larly, Moderna said it is pre­par­ing to be­gin test­ing in chil­dren.

As­traZeneca, the third com­pany cur­rently test­ing a can­di­date vac­cine in large, Phase 3 re­search, plans to keep its fo­cus on adults.

“The ear­lier we can un­der­stand the safety and ef­fi­cacy of this pop­u­la­tion, the sooner they will be able to re­ceive our po­ten­tial vac­cine ...”

Steven Danehy, Pfizer spokesman

Health and pa­tient safety cov­er­age at USA TO­DAY is made pos­si­ble in part by a grant from the Masimo Foun­da­tion for Ethics, In­no­va­tion and Com­pe­ti­tion in Health­care. The Masimo Foun­da­tion does not pro­vide ed­i­to­rial in­put.

 ?? CHAN­DAN KHANNA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Vac­cine trials are un­der­way in adults, but they have not yet stud­ied can­di­dates’ ef­fects on chil­dren.
CHAN­DAN KHANNA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Vac­cine trials are un­der­way in adults, but they have not yet stud­ied can­di­dates’ ef­fects on chil­dren.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA