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Coronavirus: What’s the Word on a Children’s Vaccine?

By: Scott Dobson, MD

It’s been roughly two months since a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for adults in our country and the roll out has only just begun. Currently, the vaccine is being administered in phases, where people in the medical field were given top priority. Many of our employees (i.e. your child’s providers and their team members) have received their first dose of this vaccine so that they can better protect themselves, their families and loved ones, and you guys—our Parkside patients.

But, I think a question we all have at the forefront of our minds is when (and how) will we get a level of protection in place for our children against the coronavirus that is more effective (and less life altering) than wearing a mask or social distancing. Many of you have been asking us when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for children and if it would be the right choice for your child to take it.

We know you’ve got questions, truth be told we do too. Here’s what we know so far about the possibility for a COVID-19 vaccine for children 16 yrs. of age and younger…

Why are kids not yet approved for a COVID-19 Vaccine?

The short answer to this is that clinical trials for children have not been completed yet.

Keep in mind, most vaccines can take years to be developed and even more years to pass their clinical trials. So, the fact that scientists have been able to create and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine in under a year is truly groundbreaking.

The long answer?

Vaccines are always studied in staged clinical trials. Phase 1 for safety. Phases 2 and 3 for safety and effectiveness. Then, the results are collected and reviewed and then submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) for the approval of distribution. The FDA almost always studies vaccines in adults before children, and even children are studied in stages, with infants being the last age group to enter the clinical trials. Therefore, it is not uncommon that the vaccine for the coronavirus has followed this same pattern so far. Again, this entire process has taken years when scientists and doctors have developed children’s vaccines in the past.

That said, I do personally foresee that the COVID-19 vaccine for children will be available in an expedited time frame given the knowledge we have gained from the adult version of the vaccine and the current circumstances in our country.

When will a children’s vaccine be available?

These trials I mentioned above are being done rather quickly to help our children stay as healthy as possible. But, I think we’d all agree that we want a balance of efficiency and safety when it comes to any vaccine development, but especially ones that involve our sweet little ones.

My honest guess is that the vaccine will be available for older kids (think 12 yrs. and up) later this spring and younger kids and infants sometime this summer. Again, just a guess, ALOT of pieces have to fall into place for that to happen.

Will the vaccine be safe when it is approved?

Proving that the vaccines are safe in adults is the first step. Good news there is that, so far, things seem to be going well.

Now, drug sponsors are trying to utilize as many sites as possible for their clinical trials so they don’t have to rush the process. By using more research sites, they can accomplish the large numbers of subjects they want to be in the trials, but still ensure that all the thorough and safe processes that the FDA requires for a vaccine to be approved and distributed to the public are followed to a tee.

I think a fear around the COVID-19 vaccine(s) in general is that the speed at which they are being developed is impressive but perhaps negligent as time typically equates to thoroughness and accuracy in many of our minds. Let me assure you that, while many steps are being taken to get your child immunized against the coronavirus as quickly as possible, none of them involve cutting corners in the clinical trial process which has been used for many years and has produced many successful treatments. The funding has been expedited and the development of the COVID-19 vaccine has been placed as top priority, but the science itself has not been accelerated.

In short, when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved by the FDA and is available for public use, I have no reason to believe it would be any less safe than any other vaccines.

From a doctor’s point of view, do you think that children will be required to receive the vaccine before returning to school?

Again, very hard to answer this as so much is still up in the air. I will say that there is a chance this could be required at some point down the road. Remember, children are required to have had their polio and measles vaccines to attend public school and both of those conditions are viruses.

Will Parkside be participating in any clinical trials?

Parkside’s clinical research team has applied for multiple pediatric clinical trials regarding the children’s COVID-19 vaccine. Currently in the US, mostly hospitals are conducting Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials. As they move into larger Phase 3 trials, we hope to be selected as a site. This could be as soon as the next two months. We promise to keep you in the loop if we are awarded a trial! Stay tuned…

I know that while we unpacked quite a bit here, there are likely still many more questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and your child. We promise to keep you up to date on any new developments and keep you as informed as possible so you can make the best decisions for your child’s health.

Until next time,

Dr. Scott Dobson

Parkside Provider, an average golfer, and a curly hair product collector

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