COVID-19 Vaccines & Children: What You Should Know
COVID-19 vaccine approved for children age 12 and up
On May 12, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 years old can safely receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This action followed an earlier decision on May 10, 2021 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizing emergency use of this vaccine for the same age group. With these actions, anyone age 12 and up can now receive a COVID-19.
The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to vaccinate as many people as possible. Extending vaccine eligibility to adolescents age 12 and will allow approximately 17 million adolescents to have access to a COVID-19 vaccine.
If children are low-risk for getting COVID-19, why do they need to be vaccinated?
Most children with COVID-19 experience mild or no symptoms. But in some cases children can get severely ill, require hospitalization, and, in some rare and tragic cases die from COVID-19 and its effects. From March 1, 2020 through April 30, 2021, approximately 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 were reported in individuals 11 to 17 years of age. Children represent about 25 percent of all new COVID-19 cases weekly in the U.S. and to date more than 350 children in the U.S. have died from COVID-19. Adolescents and children can also transmit COVID-19 so having them receive a vaccination reduces the potential spread of infection among family members (especially children younger than 12), friends, schoolmates and the general public.
In expanding vaccine access to adolescents, FDA officials emphasized that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was subjected to and passed rigorous scientific evaluation. Extensive testing of the vaccine in randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials in the U.S. found that participants age 12 and up experienced side effects similar to those previously reported in adults and individuals 16 years of age and up, mainly soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headaches, chills and joint pain for a short time after receiving injection. The FDA cautions that families should speak to their health care provider if they have concerns about their children being vaccinated. Also, the FDA recommends that the Pfizer vaccine should not be given to anyone with a known history of severe allergic reaction, especially anaphylaxis. The FDA and Pfizer-BioNTech are working together to continuously monitor the vaccine’s safety in children.
Will a COVID-19 vaccine ever be available for children under the age of 12?
Pfizer-BioNTech has reported that it is currently conducting safety and efficacy testing of a COVID-19 pediatric vaccine for children ages six months to 11 years of age. The developers expect to begin receiving initial results in September. Yale is also participating in Moderna’s clinical trial for a vaccine for children 6 months to 12 years of age. Called KidCOVE, the Moderna trial is being conducted at approximately 90 sites across the U.S. and Canada and will include 6,750 children. Inci Yildirim, MD, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious disease specialist and a vaccinologist, is leading the trial at Yale. If the test results meet the rigorous standards set by the federal government, it is possible that a COVID-19 vaccine could become available for children under age 12 by the end of the year.