Dr. Stanley Spinner, vice president and chief medical officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care answers six questions about the vaccine, immunity, and when kids can get vaccinated.
- There isn’t enough information yet about how long immunity from vaccination will last and if getting the vaccination means we won’t spread the virus, when do you think this data will be available? How can this data help when it comes to kids being able to take the vaccine?
Dr. Spinner: Data regarding the longevity of immunity from the COVID vaccine will be evaluated over time. As we get past the six and twelve-month time intervals from the time the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were initiated, we should see the levels of immunity at those points in time.
Neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccine trials looked at the infection rate, but rather the rate of illness of those vaccinated versus those given placebo. Preliminary data from a group of several hundred individuals in Israel, where large numbers of its population has been vaccinated, has shown that the Pfizer vaccine does appear to protect against spread of the infection, but it will most likely be several months before we have sufficient data to be certain.
The ability to vaccinate our pediatric population will be important regardless, as we know that many children can and do suffer severe consequences of COVID infection.
- Experts are saying by fall a vaccine could be available for kids by the fall, what is the difference between a clinical trial for a vaccine for a 12 year old and for a 6 year old?
Dr. Spinner: Clinical trials for adolescents 12-16/18 years of age are already underway for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (respectively). The trials are run in the same way as the adult trials, looking first at safety and then efficacy. Younger children add the additional challenge of determining appropriate vaccine dose. Experts anticipate trials for children 6-12 years of age beginning some time by late summer assuming the adolescent trials proceed as planned.
- Could a vaccine for kids mean children who had the vaccine won’t have to wear masks to school next fall, when do you predict health protocols in schools will shift?
Dr. Stanley Spinner: As is currently the case with vaccinated adults, we cannot discontinue the use of masks until we achieve herd immunity, which many feel is at least 75% of the population. Vaccinating our children will help us get there more quickly. Regardless of pediatric vaccination, the best protection for our children, teachers, and school staff is for all schools to maintain masking, social distancing and appropriate ventilation throughout the school. Data shows these measures are effective in reducing the spread of COVID in the school environment.
- Kid’s haven’t typically been sick like adults during the pandemic, but do you think the COVID-19 vaccine will become an annual shot for children/kids?
Dr. Spinner: While children do not develop more severe symptoms as often as adults do, many do get quite ill, and we do see some complications developing after the infection has resolved. It is too early to determine just what the long-term impact will be on children.
It is too soon to determine whether we will need a COVID booster annually. Time will tell.
- How young do you predict the vaccine could go? Would babies and toddlers be able to get the vaccine?
Dr. Spinner: The decision as to what age group to give any vaccine is based on the risk of the infection versus the risk and cost of vaccination. At this point in time, we know children down to age 6 years will be studied. It is likely we will eventually see younger children, perhaps down to the toddler age, enrolled in trials for the vaccine.
- Do you predict kids will have to get the vaccine 2 times as well?
Dr. Spinner: I would expect that children would need two doses, just as adults, for those vaccines designed to be given as a two-dose regimen.
Here’s more coverage on the vaccine and children
Clinical trials underway for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids