Yahoo News Explains: COVID-19 vaccines and children

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is hoping that children will be able to receive the coronavirus vaccine by late spring or early summer. While CDC data has shown that children are less likely than adults to develop severe illness from the virus, they can still contract and spread it asymptomatically. Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel explains the importance of children getting vaccinated not only for their own health, but also to ultimately help achieve herd immunity in the U.S. to stop the spread.

Video Transcript


KAVITA PATEL: We have already seen that the incidences of serious safety events in the two currently authorized vaccines-- Pfizer and Moderna in the US-- are very low. I hope that gets repeated in children. But without that data, it's going to be too difficult to advocate for a vaccine at the same doses and the same schedule in children.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Over the next couple of months, we will be doing trials in an age deescalation manner, so that hopefully by the time we get to the late spring and early summer, we will have children being able to be vaccinated according to the FDA's guidance.

KAVITA PATEL: There has been a slew of data released, most recently in research supported by the CDC as well as independent researchers across the world, which have looked at everything from young, school-aged children, middle school-aged children, and have really tried to understand what is the risk of transmission in young children.

And it reinforces that under the age of 12, the actual rates of COVID are lower than when compared to older children over the age of 12, and especially compared to adults. But that does not mean that young kids do not get COVID. They just get them at a lower rate.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Our current data from schools, from summer camps, and whatnot also suggested that children not only have decreased rates of symptoms, but have decreased rates of transmissibility. Those estimates for herd immunity are very much based on rates of the transmissibility. And so, what pertains to herd immunity among adults may be different among children.

KAVITA PATEL: That's been why I think there is a push that despite the lack of a vaccine, that you're hearing the president and other officials such as governors call for school reopenings because of the low incidence of the cases in school-aged children.

And furthermore, most of those cases come from adults. So it's usually adult-to-child transmission. Not rare, but much less likely is the child-to-child transmission or child-to-adult transmission. It happens. But it's mostly an adult who is either asymptomatic or symptomatic and a child who ends up being exposed and getting-- either turning positive or getting sick.

What we hope will happen is that enough people over the age of 16 will get the vaccine to create that herd immunity. But that just ups the numbers of people that we need to get the vaccine when you really can't vaccinate children in the foreseeable future.

I think 2021 would likely see a vaccine approved for ages 12 and above, maybe 8 or 6 and above, but not for the youngest age group until at most 2022. But again, that depends on kind of what we learn from the safety and efficacy in children.