As scientists race to find a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, health experts said that children will the last group of people to get inoculated. While there are currently three vaccine candidates in the final phase of clinical testing in the United States, none of those studies include children.
Health experts say this is a standard practice because children react differently to vaccines.
"Kids are not little adults, they have very different immune systems, and you might need to have a completely different kind of vaccine for kids," Dr. Anita McElroy, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told ABC News. "And we're just so at this point so far behind the power curve, we're at the very beginning of any kind of vaccine against COVID [so] that to think we could just take one that works in adults and put it in kids and assume it's going to work fine is actually a foolish thing to do."
While getting a vaccine to work in adults is one thing, pharmaceutical companies must fine-tune the dosage and determine if children will develop adverse reactions to the vaccine.
Pfizer has opened up their testing to 16 and 17-year-old volunteers, but Johnson & Johnson and Moderna are limiting their clinical trials to adults over the age of 18.
Johnson & Johnson said they want to evaluate their data from the current trials before scheduling tests on children. Moderna said they hope to begin clinical trials with children before the end of the year.
Depending on how the clinical trials go, a safe and effective vaccine for kids may not be available until late 2021. One group of medical experts is concerned that at the current rate, a vaccine may not be ready by the start of the 2021 school year next fall.
"We owe it to our children not to delay moving forward with initial studies to evaluate promising vaccine candidates," Emory University School of Medicine pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Evan Anderson said.
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