Pfizer announced that it is planning to enroll children as young as 12 in Phase 3 clinical trials for their potential COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer is one of four companies conducting Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States and the only one that is testing the vaccine in children.
"We really think a vaccine for adolescents and children is going to be critical for getting Covid under control," Dr. Robert Frenck, director of the Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, told CNN. "I think one of the things that is important to remember is that although the death rate for children with COVID is lower than in older adults, it's not zero."
Pfizer said that at least 90 people have responded to an ad looking for teens to participate in the trial, and they hope to enroll more adolescents in the coming weeks.
Last month, Pfizer increased the number of people in their clinical trials to 44,000, allowing them to test the vaccine on a more diverse group of individuals, including those "who have chronic, stable HIV (human immunodeficiency viruses), Hepatitis C, or Hepatitis B infections."
The company received approval from the FDA to test the vaccine in children about one month after a group of doctors urged pharmaceutical companies to include children in clinical trials. While a vaccine could be ready for adults by the end of the year, it will take longer for companies to ensure it is safe and effective in children.
"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, said. "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."
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