The Next Generation of Vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna pediatric trials underway
Many parents are wondering how long it will be before children can receive the shot.
SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - Children are one of the largest groups not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in adults, ages 16 and older; Moderna, ages 18 and older.
Many parents are wondering how long it will be before children can receive the shot. Health experts say it depends on the success of the pediatric clinical trials.
Dr. Danielle Gindlesberger is a family medicine physician for SSM Health Dean Medical Group. She says most of her telehealth appointments consist of finding answers for COVID-19 inquiries.
“We’re seeing lots of questions from everybody,” said Gindlesberger. “Should their child get vaccinated? Should their child not be vaccinated? What school impact will that have in the fall?”
Gindlesberger says she’s keeping up with the pediatric research in order to give her patients answers.
“Not only as a physician but as a mother, letting other moms and parents know I actually really think this is a safe vaccine,” she said. “I think it’s incredibly safe.”
PEDIATRIC VACCINE TRIALS
The clinical trial for Pfizer is currently underway and has 2,259 adolescents between ages 12 and 15 enrolled.
Moderna is currently enrolling for its pediatric clinical trial. The company has a goal to enroll 3,000 participants, ages 12-17. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, Moderna did not get FDA approval for young adults 16 and 17 years old because the study did not include enough participants in that age range.
Dr. Derek Clevidence, Medical Director of Clinics for UnityPoint-Health Meriter, says safety and efficacy are the two priorities in a pediatric trial.
“I think the pediatric trials are going to be safer and easier to do,” said Clevidence. “There’s no reason to think that it wouldn’t work. It’s just a matter of being safe, cautious, and prudent.”
Doctors say sometimes children don’t need the same size dose as adults do for a vaccine.
“One of the things pediatricians will commonly tell you is that kids are not just little adults,” said Dr. Matt Anderson, a Senior Medical Director for UW Health. “They have different things going on in their bodies that need to be studied.”
Health experts believe because the two vaccines are already approved for emergency use in adults, it won’t take long for the same approval to be given to children.
“When we get additional data that proves the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines in that age group and population, then there will be a recommendation coming forward about them at that time,” said Anderson.
Gindlesberger says she’s done research on the clinical COVID-19 vaccine trials and looked into signing up her own children.
“I feel so comfortable with kids getting this vaccine that I actually looked to enroll my own teenagers in the vaccine trial because I felt very comfortable in the technology and wanted to be part of the solution,” said Gindlesberger.
The closest clinic enrolling is in Indiana and so Gindlesberger was unable to sign up her family, but she says she would enroll them if there were a location closer to her home in Sun Prairie.
“The trials are all going to be about what dose is the best for them,” said Gindlesberger. “They have a different immune system that is much more accommodating to reacting to things.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci announced in a White House press briefing in January that a vaccine for children could be approved by late spring or summer. However, it’s likely distribution of the vaccine will delay children getting the shot until much later this year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports a vaccine could be approved by the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
“For [children] to be able to walk down the hallway at school and be able to hug a teacher or hug a friend or give a fist bump or a high five,” said Gindlesberger. “We have to have a vaccine in order to be able to get to that spot.”
She says the sooner children are vaccinated, the sooner our live at school can return to normal.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Gindlesberger. “To think that my kids could be vaccinated and go back to their sports and seeing their friends. I think that’s so valuable.”
WILL ADULTS NEED A BOOSTER SHOT?
Doctors say the next 6-12 months will be crucial in understanding the vaccine and it’s immunity strength.
Researchers are trying to determine just how long the vaccines are effective for.
“Eventually your immunity to those can wane and so we just don’t know for this specific one,” said Shirley. “The only way to know the answer to that is time and we’re still kind of at the beginning.”
Because of the COVID-19 variants, the most recent reported in Dane County, doctors say it’s also possible we could need a booster if the vaccines are not effective against other strains.
“Everyone in the science community is thinking that one of these variants could escape this vaccine,” said Shirley. “Therefore, we would need to modify it a little bit and that could be another reason there could be a need for a booster in the future.”
Health experts say that the more people that get vaccinated, the less likely a COVID-19 variant is to develop.
“I think we’re getting better or understanding better how to manage this disease,” said Clevidence.
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