BALTIMORE — On Tuesday, Governor Larry Hogan rolled out the state’s vaccination plan, announcing the first initial doses of a COVID-19 vaccine could arrive as early as next week.
But many experts are concerned a vaccine for children won’t be available by the time school starts next year.
Dr. Evan Anderson at the Emory University School of Medicine told our sister station KGTV in San Diego that, “our children under 12 years of age are almost certainly going into next school year without a vaccine option available for them.”
It’s because vaccine makers such as Pfizer and Moderna haven’t tested candidates under the age of 12-years-old.
In October, Pfizer gave its vaccine to 100 kids from ages 12 to 15. Moderna is expected to start testing in that age group in January, but neither company has announced plans for children under 12.
Doctors say testing is critical to find the right vaccine dose and to see if there are any unexpected side effects.
“Kids' immune systems are really different than adults. As any pediatrician will tell you, Kids are not just small adults, their immune systems behave really differently,” said Dr. Christian Ramers from Family Health Centers in San Diego.
Data on older kids is also limited and a vaccine for them may be ready until more studies are done, which could put school reopenings in jeopardy.
To date, children make up 12 percent of COVID-19 infections and expert say a vaccine for them is necessary to control the spread and to reach herd immunity.
“I really don’t want to vaccinate my children just for the heck of it so they can get back to school,” said Katie Douglas, who has two private school kids in Baltimore County.
Douglas says she and her kids contracted the virus earlier this year. Still, she doesn't plan on taking a vaccine, and wouldn’t want her kids to do so either, until there’s more research and testing.
“What are the long term effects with any vaccination but especially in this circumstance they’re pushing it so quickly it makes me very nervous,” she said.
In a statement to our sister station KGTV, Pfizer said it is “working actively with regulators on a potential pediatric study plan.”
“As we do with all vaccines which are initially studied in adult populations, we are following a careful, step-wise approach as we move down to younger age groups,” said Jerica Pitts, Pfizer’s director of global media relations.
“Global regulatory agencies require evaluation of the candidate vaccine in pediatric populations. Moving below 12 years of age will require a new study and potentially a modified formulation or dosing schedule,” she added.