Demand grows for COVID vaccine approval for kids under 12 as school starts

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — When we first met Zina Good and her children earlier this year, they were among the first under fives to receive a COVID vaccination as part of a clinical trial at Stanford. Since then, she says friends with school-age children want to know more.

“Our friends often ask, How are your kids doing? Yes, our kids are great, we feel so happy,” Good says.

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But for many families with vaccinated or unvaccinated children, going back to school is filled with unanswered questions about safety, risks, and what awaits the Delta variant. Stanford infectious disease expert Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, MD believes current precautions are key.

“Going back to school for children who wear masks and keep their distance, up to one meter inside, will be very safe. We know that there will be no outbreaks in schools if they follow those guidelines,” she emphasizes.

One of the unanswered questions, however, is the availability of a COVID vaccine for children under 12. Pfizer has announced it plans to present safety data from clinical trials next month, with Moderna saying it also plans to submit data this fall. That has led some health experts to expect a likely vaccine for 5-11-year-olds around the end of the year, with under five years later. But that’s if everything runs smoothly. The FDA has indicated that it wants to follow a larger group of participants for a longer period of time to detect possible side effects.

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“We still have a lot of people who want to participate in the trial, so I don’t think that will be a problem, it’s just a matter of timing,” says Dr Maldonado.

But the pressure for approval of a pediatric vaccine is mounting. Not only with the Delta variant, but also with the increasing toll it takes on younger patients. And the care that many parents provide. The American Academy of Pediatrics is already pointing to some of the largest week-to-week percentage increases in pediatric COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic involving tens of thousands of new cases.

dr. Maldonado says she would also like the FDA to approve a pediatric vaccine, but in the meantime, she believes the risk to students is still manageable in a well-controlled environment.

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“The reality is that the children are mainly infected at home and at social events outside of school,” she says.

For Zina Good and her family, that meant supporting friends and other families, who are still waiting for the same opportunity they’ve had, to get a pediatric vaccine.

“We’re still trying to follow all CDC guidelines, so we’re making sure they don’t worry and we’re trying to support our friends as much as we can,” Good says.

This month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it has also begun taking steps toward a pediatric trial for its vaccine, which could begin in the fall.

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