As COVID-19 cases continue to crop up across the United States and Americans become increasingly eager to return to some semblance of their pre-pandemic lives, pharmaceutical companies are racing to make a vaccine available. But while adults may soon be able to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, a children's COVID-19 vaccine is unlikely to be ready anytime soon as none of the current trials include children. With the United State's number of COVID-19 deaths climbed above 200,000, pediatric infectious disease specialists have called for companies to begin vaccine trials for children.
"We owe it to our children not to delay moving forward with initial studies to evaluate promising vaccine candidates," USA Today reported Dr. Evan Anderson, a Children's Healthcare of Atlanta pediatrician and a pediatric infectious disease professor at Emory University School of Medicine, told reporters in a virtual call Monday.
Anderson is one of eight pediatric infectious disease specialists who, in an article published in Clinical Infectious Diseases called for clinical vaccine trials to begin in children as soon as possible. In an article entitled Warp Speed for COVID-19 Vaccines: Why are Children Stuck in Neutral?, Anderson and his colleagues argued that the delay in children's vaccine trials would have huge ramifications not only for children but for the United State's overall coronavirus recovery.
"Delaying Phase II vaccine clinical trials in children will delay our recovery from COVID-19 and unnecessarily prolong its impact upon children's education, health, and emotional well-being, and equitable access to opportunities for development and social success," the specialists noted in their article. "Given the potential direct and indirect benefits of pediatric vaccination, implementation of Phase II clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines should begin now."
Anderson recently told The New York Times that he was "pretty worried" by the fact that the United States would not have a COVID-19 vaccine available for children before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
While there are currently has four COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently undergoing advanced clinical trials, none of those trials involve children. Traditionally, vaccines — even those developed specifically to be given to children — are first tested in animals and adult humans for safety reasons before being tested on adolescents and children, The New York Times has reported. Because children's body and biology are different than adults, it is imperative that vaccine developers include them in trials before that vaccine can be administered to children on a massive scale.
But even if a COVID-19 vaccine was ready for children tomorrow, it's unclear how willing most parents would be to have their kids receive one. The aggressive and accelerated push for a vaccine has reportedly raised alarm bells among some parents who worry corners have been cut in the race to a vaccine due to pressure from President Donald Trump. Trump, who is currently campaigning for his re-election has repeatedly promised a vaccine will be ready before the end of the year.
In August, a Gallup poll found that 1 in 3 Americans would not obtain a COVID-19 vaccine if available now, not even if it was free. In September, a separate USA Today/Suffolk University poll found two-thirds of voters would not get a COVID-19 vaccine due to rushed development, insufficient data on possible long-term effects, and suspicions pressure from the president had compromised safety standards.
Most recently, Trump suggested the White House might override the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) if the agency attempted to put tougher guidelines in place for authorizing a COVID-19 vaccine. "We're looking at that and that has to be approved by the White House," CNN reported Trump said of reports the FDA was considering a set of new COVID-19 vaccine guidelines. "We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move."
Yet even with vaccine development being done at an accelerated pace, it seems as if children may have a long wait ahead of them for a COVID-19 vaccine.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.