Clinical trials have not included children, so vaccines for them may not arrive until the next school year, while adults may get theirs by summer.
The British government is imposing new restrictions as virus cases increase.
Here’s what you need to know:
A Covid-19 vaccine for children may not arrive before fall 2021.
The pandemic has many parents asking two questions. First, when can I get a vaccine? And second, when can my kids get it? The answers are not the same: Adults may be able to get a vaccine by next summer, but their children will have to wait longer. Perhaps a lot longer.
Thanks to the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed and other programs, a number of Covid-19 vaccines for adults are already in advanced clinical trials. But no trials have yet begun in the United States to determine whether these vaccines are safe and effective for children.
“Right now I’m pretty worried that we won’t have a vaccine available for kids by the start of next school year,” said Dr. Evan Anderson, a pediatrician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and a professor at the Emory University School of Medicine.
Many vaccines — including ones for measles, polio and tetanus — were designed from the outset to be given to children. In such cases, vaccine developers would typically start with trials in adults to check for significant safety issues.
Only if researchers discovered no serious side effects would they start testing them in children, often beginning with teenagers, then working their way down to younger ages. Vaccine developers are keenly aware that children are not simply miniature adults. Their biology is different in ways that may affect the way vaccines work.
These trials allow vaccine developers to adjust the dose to achieve the best immune protection with the lowest risk of side effects. This process has proved safe and tremendously successful.
When the pandemic hit, some vaccine makers figured out how to combine phases, gathering more data in the same period of time. The result has been a swift march toward a vaccine. Just nine months into the pandemic, dozens of Covid-19 vaccines have reached clinical trials.
Dr. Anderson said that vaccine makers could have started running trials for children over the summer, as soon as they had gotten good Phase 2 results from adults. But that did not happen, and whenever those trials do start, it could take upward of a year to get vaccines ready for children.
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