Doctors in Southwest Florida are treating 19 children hospitalized for COVID-19, and many parents are now wondering when their young children be able to get vaccinated. But doctors say it’s going to be a lot longer before that under-12 age group sees any sort of vaccine.
With kids 5 to 11, it’s difficult to get a large enough sample size of children to run the appropriate trials. A lot of research and testing must be done before something can be approved by both the CDC and FDA, and the younger the child, the more hurdles there are.
As children grow so quickly, an 8-year-old’s body is going to react to a vaccine very different than of a 4-year-old’s, so figuring out the right dosage is a delicate balance. For now, experts want to get the 5 to 11 age bracket vaccinated before they focus on anyone younger.
“The hope is by getting the 5 and up age group population, we’ll have enough of herd immunity so that the younger children, the 4 and under down to the infants, won’t be such a significant population that we’re going to be concerned about,” said Dr. Robert Hawkes, director of the physician assistant program at Florida Gulf Coast University. “That’s not to say they may not have a vaccine in the future. But right now the focus is on the 5 to 11-year-olds.”
Besides the reluctance of many parents to have their children be part of these early studies, another factor is the different between children’s bodies and adult bodies; this is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
“Children are not considered small adults, their bodies are going to be set up a little bit differently, their immune system will react differently than adults,” Hawkes said. “The testing process is making sure that it’s safe. In addition, the dosing, the dosing that we’ve been giving to the children 12 and over and adults is going to be different from the 5 to 11 population.”
Doctors think a vaccine for the 5 to 11 age group could come as soon as fall or early winter, so January 2022 is being used as a more conservative estimate for when younger children will have these options become available.