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VERIFY: Here's when kids as young as 12 might be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Adolescent trials are well underway, but only for certain age groups. For younger kids, it could be many more months.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

When will kids 15 and younger be vaccinated?

ANSWER:

Kids 12 and older will likely be authorized to be vaccinated by spring 2021. Younger children may not be cleared for many more months.

OUR SOURCES:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID and the nation’s leading expert in infectious diseases
  • Dr. Kawsar Talaat, Principal Site Investigator, Pfizer adult COVID vaccine phase 3 trial
  • Information from Moderna and Pfizer

WHAT WE FOUND:

Coral Gundlach and her son Logan are eager to get vaccinated.

“We don’t have big goals,” Coral told Verify. “Just want to get life back to normal.”

Logan’s school is currently operating in-person two days per week. He hopes the vaccine rollout will get him back in the classroom full-time.

“I would be very happy if I could get the vaccine and be able to go to a full five days in school because I’ve missed that a lot,” Logan said.

Here’s the issue: Logan is 14. Moderna’s COVID vaccine is only authorized for adults 18 and up, and Pfizer’s for 16 and older.

Credit: WUSA9
Coral Gundlach and her son Logan are eager to get vaccinated.

“When will children under the age of 16 get the vaccine?” Coral asked.

To Verify, we brought that question to experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“Right now, they’re in clinical trials,” Dr. Fauci told Verify.

What's an estimated timeline on vaccines for kids?

Adolescent trials are well underway.

Moderna is currently enrolling three thousand children age 12-17. Pfizer just finished first doses for two thousand kids 12-15, according to Dr. Kawsar Talaat.

Dr. Talaat is the principal investigator of Pfizer’s adult phase 3 trial site at Johns Hopkins. She’s also served as an investigator on the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine trial.

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Dr. Talaat says Pfizer’s adolescent trial is very similar to the adult trial. They’ll need two months of data after the second shots are done before Pfizer can ask the FDA to authorize children 15 and younger under their Emergency Use Authorization.

“So I’m hoping that adolescents will be approved sometime this spring,” Dr. Talaat said, stressing that children will still have to wait their turn given they won’t be a priority group.

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Dr. Fauci echoed that timeline for authorization.

“I would say a matter of a few months, two or three months,” he told Verify.

But that’s only children 12 and older. Trials for kids five to 11 should start later this year.

“It probably won’t happen until fall at the earliest,” Dr. Talaat projected.

Credit: WUSA9
As of February 2021, two of the modern vaccines are beginning to look at next steps for kids and vaccines.

Younger kids may need a modified vaccine or dosage.

“Any vaccine that we put into a vulnerable population, and children fall under that vulnerable population, definitely receives special scrutiny,” Dr. Talaat said.

It’s unclear if communities can reach herd immunity without adolescent vaccines. Experts estimate 75 percent of people or more need to be vaccinated to hit that point.

Can herd immunity be reached without vaccines for kids?

Verify asked Dr. Fauci if we can reach herd immunity without vaccines for kids.

“Theoretically you could, if you look at the numbers,” Dr. Fauci said. “But I think, given the fact that not every adult is going to get vaccinated, you’re likely going to have to include children in that.”

Dr. Sarah Schaffer DeRoo is a pediatrician with Children’s National Hospital.

 While children are a low-risk group for COVID illness, she says adolescent vaccines will be critical for slowing community spread.

“We want to protect children so that we can protect other household members,” Dr. Schaffer DeRoo said. “I'm worried about the levels of vaccine hesitancy among adults. If we have a certain number of adults who do not find COVID vaccine  acceptably, then we need to include children in order to attain herd immunity.”

Vaccinations for teenagers under 18 will require two layers of consent: one from a parent and the other from the child.

“So getting teens to buy into that COVID vaccine is going to be a big part of the process,” Dr. Schaffer DeRoo said.

Ultimately, Dr. Schaffer DeRoo believes adolescent vaccines could be key to reopening all schools across the United States.

“If we were able to immunize younger children, we would have better guarantees that disease transmission could hopefully be slowed or halted altogether, and bring a sense of normalcy to school,” she told Verify.

BOTTOM LINE:

Children 12-15 could be authorized by the FDA to be vaccinated by spring, though they’ll still have to wait their turn since they won’t be a priority group. For younger kids, it’ll likely be many more months.

Have a question for the Verify team? Send them to our researchers at verify@wusa9.com 

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