Nine-year-old twins, Alejandra and Marisol Gerardo, are the first two children under 12 to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. And we’re all counting on kids like them to facilitate our return to “normal.”
Pfizer’s official pediatric trial kicked off this week at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute in Durham, N.C., with a goal to eventually enroll 4,500 participants, ages 6 months to 11 years old. This first phase of the study involves 144 children, and seeks to find the appropriate dosage for young patients; two subsequent stages will focus on safety and efficacy, with a placebo versus vaccine component.
While experts have stressed that getting children vaccinated will help the U.S. reach herd immunity faster and, ultimately, end the pandemic sooner, parents are in a tough spot at this critical juncture. Signing a child up for any medical study is never an easy choice to make. Some parents remain reticent to raise their hands, but other caregivers find themselves eager to get this vaccination show on the road.
As reported by ABC News, Dr. Susanna Naggie, mother to the Gerardo twins, shared her enthusiasm at the opportunity, not only to protect her children sooner, but to help the greater good: “I think we’re super excited that this is an opportunity for us to both potentially get our kids access, but also to contribute to knowledge of how safe this is for kids.” What’s more, Alejandra herself wasn’t fazed in the slightest by the needle: “That feels good!” she exclaimed to her mom.
Earlier this month, Moderna launched its second pediatric trial, involving children 6 months to 11 years of age, and parents of participants expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s not that I want my kids to be guinea pigs,” mother of two Rachel Guthrie told AZ Central. “In order to get this process approved for the general population, people have to volunteer.”
And so that’s exactly what she did. Guthrie enrolled children Lily and Ryder in the Moderna trial, and even got her needle-phobic 7-year-old happily onboard with the idea of taking a voluntary shot. Guthrie elaborated: “This is the way to help it be over in her mind… Surprisingly, that was enough for her to say, ‘OK, that means more to me than my terrible fear of shots. Let’s do it,’ so she’s actually pretty excited about getting it.”
Like Moderna and Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson plans to test their vaccine in older children before expanding to younger participants, including newborns. A recent study found that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines protect pregnant and breastfeeding moms, and can potentially even provide antibodies to baby.
Despite parents around the world watching and waiting for initial results from early pediatric trials, the reality is that the general population of youth won’t have widespread access to vaccinations for a number of months.
According to CNBC, White House Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci told a House Committee that teenagers would likely be able to receive a vaccine by early fall of 2021, while younger children could potentially get it in early 2022.
Nevertheless, a willingness and excitement among parents and children alike is an encouraging sign for many in the medical community. Katie Freese, a Chicago-area mom of two, told ABC 7 News that she’s on veritable pins and needles: “I can’t wait for them to get vaccinated and start getting back to their normal lives… I would love for them to get vaccinated tomorrow if possible.”
Meanwhile, these face masks for teens will make staying safe more fun.