Texas pediatricians hopeful COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids will be ready by summer

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On a white piece of paper the red ink spells out the day. 

7 a.m wake up call. By 7:15 a.m. breakfast is ready and then it’s off to gather pencil, laptop and water before virtual school starts. 

Sera Bonds hopes her family can get the COVID-19 vaccine by the fall (Courtesy: Sera Bonds) 

“We make lots of lists, plus schedules to get us through our days,” said Sera Bonds, a midwife, who has been working from home. “Virtual learning for kids has been hard and we are so grateful for the option to stay home.”

Bonds and her pediatrician husband have been mindful about how they’ve spent the last nine months. 

“We’ve been getting out into nature 2-3 times a week,” Bonds explained. “Fishing is a great socially distanced activity.”

Bonds said they’ve been realistic about what they’ve been telling their two boys, ages 10 and 12, about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“I’m really trying to calibrate my kids expectations. It’s too sad when they’re still in their bedrooms going to school next fall,” she said. 

Pediatricians waiting on data  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director accepted the recommendation that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can be given to people ages 16 and older. 

The decision comes after the US Food and Drug Administration issued emergency-use authorization for the vaccine.

Pfizer has been testing the coronavirus vaccine in children 12 and older. 

A spokesperson said to include younger children an additional clinical trial would be required and the company may have to consider a lower dose of the vaccine.

“To address the burden of disease in pediatric populations younger than 12, we are working actively with regulators on a potential pediatric study plan,” said the Pfizer spokesperson in an email to KXAN investigators. 

Moderna started testing the vaccine in teenagers between 12 and 17 several days ago. The company hopes it will be safe and effective ahead of the 2021 school year. Younger children are expected to be tested early in the new year. 

The study includes 3,000 children, according to government registry clincaltrials.gov.

“Our goal is to generate data in the spring of 2021,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna. “We hope we will be able to provide a safe vaccine to provide protection to adolescents so they can return to school in a normal setting.”

AstraZeneca responded to KXAN investigators that further studies are planned in children. 

Kids could be vaccinated by summer

“The hope is that there is a very, very important timeline to try to get this done by and that is the start of the next school year,” said pediatrician Dr. Seth Kaplan, President of the Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Safety is a primary consideration and safety data is being looked at so seriously. And all of the data is so promising right now in adults and we look forward to seeing this in data in children.”

Dr. Kaplan said as part of the determinations of whether a vaccine is safe there needs to be at least two months worth of data on a given group. 

“It will take at least several more months to get enough data on children to be able to make recommendations,” he said. “So it is going to take some time.”

He explained that the data will help answer many questions that pediatricians currently have including the impact of the vaccine and a rare illness called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C.

“It’s a very, very small number of children who’ve had COVID who go on to develop that condition. So there are some legitimate concerns that if kids are vaccinated, could the same thing happen from them being vaccinated? And we don’t have the answers to that yet,” explained Dr. Kaplan. 

He said it will be important for the medical community to work on messaging about the safety of the vaccine once available to children. 

“Texas unfortunately has a fairly high rate of vaccine hesitancy and and it’s going to play out in this,” Dr. Kaplan said. “If not enough people get vaccinated then we don’t achieve our goals, because you need a significant part of the population to be vaccinated to achieve herd community.”

Not time to let your guard down 

Dr. Kaplan emphasized that this winter is the time to continue safety measures to fight the virus. 

“Now is not the time to stop masking. Now is not the time to stop practicing social distancing. Now is not the time to forget to wash our hands,” Dr. Kaplan said. “Now is the time to continue all those practices and try to be as safe as possible, because we’ve got a tough winter ahead but a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sera Bonds said her family has been doing a lot of baking, walks and socially distanced fishing (Courtesy: Sera Bonds) 

Meanwhile, Bonds thinks her family will be vaccinated in the fall. 

“The moment that we are cleared to get it we absolutely will,” she said. “Then we are going into the world! Can’t wait!”

She’s traveled the world working in several pandemic hotspots. 

“I’ve spent two decades working in humanitarian crisis settings. In infectious disease and reproductive health. Specifically, I worked in Asia during the bird flu pandemic.”

She now regularly holds coronavirus discussions through Waking Giants, a company she co-founded which provides education and products about social inequities, most recently COVID-19 and racial injustice. 

“I trust science and I trust the people who have spent their lives in science and in immunology technology to develop this and make it safe,” she said. “I trust the public health professionals who are designing the rollout.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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