As the adult world waits for the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, it raises the question of if and when children will be immunized. Health Canada has approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for 16 and older, while Moderna, AstraZeneca Covishield and Johnson & Johnson Janssen are recommended for those aged 18 years and up.
“At this stage, there isn’t enough data from the clinical trials to know the affect these vaccines would have on children,” said Dr. Tania Diener, COVID 19 Immunization Co-Chief, Saskatchewan Health Authority. “We do know that this will be the next area for trial studies, with Pfizer BioNTech recruiting candidates for ages 12 and up, Moderna already having started their clinical trials for children six months to less than 12 years, AstraZeneca/Oxford is trialing theirs on six- to 17-year-olds and Johnson & Johnson is looking at infants and even newborns. There’s quite a wide range of ages being studied.”
It’s important to do clinical trials specifically in children as their immune systems are still maturing, and they might react differently to the vaccines, including side effects. It is also necessary to see if they need different formulations or dosages. Alongside the clinical trials, the number of cases in children, the severity and whether children are a significant source of community transmission will continue to be studied.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical advisor, has indicated that teens will be researched first and then children under the age of 12. "Potentially, by the end of the calendar year, we might have some answers for children," Sharma believes. Once the vaccines receive Health Canada approval, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization will review the clinical trial evidence to make recommendations on dosages.
Until COVID-19 vaccines are available for children, the best way for parents to protect their kids is to ensure that all vaccines and boosters for other diseases are up-to-date and to follow public health orders. Masking, washing hands and physical distancing will help in limiting the transmission of the COVID-19 virus for both adults and children, as well as parents and other adults ensuring that they receive their COVID vaccine.
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