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When Should We Start Testing COVID-19 Vaccines in Kids?

With several coronavirus vaccines barreling through late-stage trials, adults could receive an approved vaccine in months. But even then, we likely won’t know whether any of these vaccines work in children. Steven Joffe, MD, MPH, interim chair of Medical Ethics & Health Policy, was quoted.


An approved vaccine would not only guard children against potential disease and death, but also reduce the spread of COVID-19 from children to others and allow schools to safely resume with fewer distancing measures in place, Dr. Steven Joffe, a bioethics and pediatrics professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, wrote in a commentary in The Washington Post.


"They can definitely transmit the infection, especially older children," Munoz-Rivas noted.


It's still unclear how often children below age 10 catch and spread COVID-19, but in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published Sep. 28, researchers describe how older teens may be as likely as adults to transmit the virus. Without an approved vaccine for those under age 18, the effort to curb viral spread from children will remain dependent on other countermeasures, like social distancing and mask wearing, Joffe wrote.


With several coronavirus vaccines barreling through late-stage trials, adults could receive an approved vaccine in months. But even then, we likely won't know whether any of these vaccines work in children.


Only a handful of coronavirus vaccine trials currently include children as participants — an Oxford-AstraZeneca trial being one of them, Stat News reported. The Chinese company Sinovac Biotech will include children ages 3 to 17 in an upcoming trial, according to ClinicalTrials.gov, but by and large, most vaccine developers have not launched similar trials with participants younger than age 18. And in the U.S., no children have been enrolled in coronavirus vaccine trials, The New York Times reported


Vaccines typically get tested in adults before children to allow their safety profiles to be fully assessed, and their potential risks minimized, before they're given to kids. In the case of COVID-19, children generally face a far lower risk of hospitalization and death compared with adults, so taking an untested vaccine could pose higher risks than the virus itself. That said, with data from large adult trials now rolling in, some experts have argued that vaccine trials for kids should start sooner, rather than later.


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