Vaccinating children against COVID-19 could play a pivotal role in ending the pandemic, Margaret Ferguson, MD, MBA, president and executive medical director of the Colorado Permanente Medical Group, wrote recently in Modern Healthcare.
While guidance for who should be vaccinated has focused first on adults — starting with health care and other essential workers, the elderly, and those with medical conditions — Dr. Ferguson listed compelling reasons to pursue the immunization of children.
Chief among them is the suffering the disease has caused: As of mid-February, more than 3 million U.S. children had tested positive and nearly 250 children have died from COVID-19, making it a greater threat to them than influenza in a typical year.
“Experts estimate that at least 70% of the U.S. population would need to be vaccinated or recover from COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity,” Dr. Ferguson wrote. “If we don’t vaccinate children 18 and under, who account for 22% of the U.S. population, about 90% of adults would need to receive COVID-19 shots. Such a scenario is improbable because vaccine supply is still limited and because about 4 in 10 Americans say they are unlikely to be vaccinated.”
Dr. Ferguson noted that researchers typically study vaccine safety first in adults, then gradually lower the age of research participants.
Pfizer’s vaccine has been authorized for children age 16 and up and Moderna’s targets those 18 and older; both have begun clinical trials for children 12 and older. Although the timing is difficult to predict, 12-year-olds could be eligible for immunization by late spring or summer.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was recently approved for people 18 and older. The company just announced plans to test its COVID-19 vaccine in infants and even in newborns, as well as pregnant women.
“Once deemed safe,” Dr. Ferguson wrote, “prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations for children would allow us to protect them more quickly, not to mention others they might infect.”
Note: To read the entire article, visit the Modern Healthcare website (subscription required).