Pfizer’s experimental coronavirus vaccine is now being tested in the youngest age group yet — kids as young as 12.
The move into younger children was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and institutional review boards earlier this month, but Pfizer broke up the groups of children into older teens age 16 and 17 and young children age 12 to 15.
A team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital finished vaccinating 100 children in the younger age group last week, said Dr. Robert Frenck, who is leading the trial for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine at the hospital. Half the volunteers in this third and final phase of Pfizer’s vaccine are getting a placebo, or dummy shot.
“Now we are pausing to watch for reactions to the vaccine. We right now are in a planned pause to make sure that everything is as safe as it can be,” Frenck told CNN.
Among the side effects doctors are watching for are lumps, redness or pain at the site of the injection, as well as fever or achiness.
Abhinav, 12, is one of the young volunteers. The seventh grader — whose parents asked that only his first name be used to protect his privacy — hopes that widespread vaccination will help make it safe for his grandparents to resume visits from India, and for classes to get back to normal at school.
“I think everyone at my school would like to get back to normal,” Abhinav told CNN. “I really think a vaccine could prevent the spread of the infection. As of now, I probably would request other kids to maybe take it.”
Frenck said people may be nervous about giving children an experimental vaccine but noted Pfizer’s has already been tested in tens of thousands of adults.
“The reason we can use this vaccine in children is that Pfizer has 30,000 adults who have been enrolled and it has safety data from all those people,” he said.
Plus, he said, it will be important to vaccinate children against coronavirus if there is to be any hope of controlling the pandemic. They are almost certainly contributing to silent spread of the virus.
“I think the important thing people need to remember is that while adolescents aren’t getting as sick as older adults are, it doesn’t mean that some kids aren’t getting sick and some kids aren’t dying,” Frenck said.
“We have had 120 kids in the US die from Covid so far.”