Covid -1 9 Vaccines for Children Will Be Here Soon
Just in time for gumbo season, deer season, duck season, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, the first COVID-19 vaccines for 5- to 11-year-old children are expected to receive FDA and CDC approval in the next several weeks. While this is exciting news for many parents anxious to protect their children from COVID-19, some parents have already decided not to vaccinate their children. In the middle are many parents who want more information about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. So, here is what is currently known about the vaccines for children and some relevant information about the vaccines in adults:
As with the COVID-19 vaccines for adults and teens, the Pfizer vaccine study data for 5- to 11-year-old children was the first submitted to the FDA for review.
The Pfizer vaccine trial for 5- to 11-year-old children has enrolled over 4,500 subjects, 3,000 of whom received the vaccine and 1,500 of whom received placebo.
The Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old is the same vaccine that those 12 years and older receive but at onethird of the dose. As with many vaccines, children frequently have a stronger immune response than adults. The lower dose of the COVID-19 vaccine used in the Pfizer study actually produces antibody levels in children similar to the full dose in adults.
The lower dose of the COVID-19 vaccine also leads to fewer and milder side effects in children. Most children had no side effects other than arm tenderness for a couple of days at the injection site. Some had fever, fatigue and/or headache, similar to the side effects seen in teens and young adults. These side effects resolve within a few days.
Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax are completing studies of their COVID-19 vaccines in children, and they are expected to submit data to the FDA for review in early 2022.
Currently, 25-30% of new COVID-19 infections are in children, and children can spread COVID-19 to others. Fortunately, severe infections and death due to COVID-19 are rare in children.
In the United States, over 400 children have died of COVID-19 and its complications, including 16 children in Louisiana.
After more than 14 months of study for the COVID-19 vaccines in adults and over 6.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered to adults and teens worldwide since December 2020, no long-term adverse effects of the vaccines have been identified. Specifically, there are no effects of the COVID-19 vaccines on fertility or reproduction.
Over 130,000 pregnant women have received COVID-19 vaccines in the United States without negative effects on the mother or infant. In contrast, over 120,000 pregnant women have become ill with COVID-19, and over 22,000 have required hospitalization. Sadly, over 160 pregnant women have died of COVID-19.
Parents will soon have a decision to make about whether to vaccinate their children against COVID-19. One important question that can be helpful in the decision process is: How would COVID-19 infection impact our family, particularly missing school, work, athletic activities or holiday gatherings due to isolation and quarantine requirements? Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 is here to stay. Vaccines provide the best protection against COVID-19. They are crucial to preventing the emergence of more COVID-19 variants. They are the key to stopping requirements for wearing masks while indoors. They are the most important strategy to protect our children and loved ones from COVID-19.
Dr. John Vanchiere is a professor of pediatrics and board-certified pediatric infectious diseases specialist at LSU Health Shreveport and the Ochsner LSU Health System. He is the local principal investigator for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine studies in infants, children and adults.