KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With Americans in the high priority list beginning to get their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine, many of you are asking when the vaccine will be available for kids.
Dr. Ryan Redman, ER director at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, answers some of the questions parents have about the vaccine.
When do medical experts believe children will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
This is something we at Children’s Hospital are following closely.
Remember, children who contract COVID-19 are still, for the most part, doing well with it and getting better faster than some adults. High-risk groups such as elderly people and frontline health care workers are the first to receive the vaccine, with other adults and teens — not younger kids — likely to have access later in 2021; best guess right now is late summer.
Since the Pfizer vaccine is already approved for teens 16 and up, when do you think teens in this age bracket will be able to receive it?
Because most teens who contract COVID-19 aren’t typically at high risk for severe illness, even those old enough to receive Pfizer’s vaccine will likely be in the final group to receive it.
There are a few exceptions. Those 16 and up with high-risk health conditions may have the opportunity to get the vaccine sooner, as well as those 16 and up who are essential workers.
Can you explain the process of getting the vaccine approved for kids?
Before the vaccines can be approved for use in younger teens and children, clinical trials need to be completed. This is important because children are not little adults. Children’s immune systems are still developing and their immune reactions can be different at different ages.
The research that has already been done on the COVID-19 vaccine for ages 16 and up needs to be repeated in children of younger ages. Both Pfizer and Moderna recently began vaccine trials including children as young as 12.
If they’re successful, the data will go through FDA review, followed by the time it takes for production and distribution. That process could take a while, especially for younger ages.
Will it be safe to give to kids once available?
That will depend on your child’s health. It’s a decision every family will have to make for themselves; weighing risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 to the possible side effects.
The approved vaccines are going through the same process any vaccine must undergo before being approved. Even though the process to make the vaccine available had a shortened timeline, there were not safety shortcuts.
When I made the decision to get the vaccine myself, I weighed the risk of getting COVID-19 against risk of vaccine, which is proven to be very effective and safe based on all data so far. I was happy to get my first dose a couple weeks ago.