On March 6th, a 36-year-old woman in Omaha became the first Nebraskan with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Less than a year later, on December 11, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.
And just one week later, Sandie — an overnight Respiratory Therapist — became the first team member at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center to receive the vaccine.
Vaccines have provided a much-needed light at the end of the tunnel. Two vaccines (from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) have already been authorized, and several others (including ones from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson) are likely to follow in their footsteps in early 2021.
There are more than 200 experimental COVID-19 vaccines in the works.*
*These numbers were reported by the Washington Post on December 11, 2020.
During clinical trials, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both proved to be about 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 — in adults. We don’t have enough information on how they work in children.
Here are 3 things we do know about the COVID-19 vaccines for children, and what we can expect in 2021:
They Will Be Tested On Children
Right now, the vaccine is only available to healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents. The next group to have access will likely be those over age 65, frontline workers, and people with preexisting conditions. Young, healthy adults will be the last group of adults to get the vaccine.
But when it comes to children, the timeline is still unclear.
Vaccines need to be tested separately in children to make sure that they are still effective and safe, and to see if children need a different dose. Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have already started testing children 12 and older, but neither has results yet.
In early 2021, we can expect to see more vaccine trials for kids. Moderna is currently working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on finalizing a design for a clinical trial in children under age 12, which will hopefully begin within the next few months. Johnson & Johnson — whose vaccine has shown promising results in studies so far — is also planning a trial for children over age 12.
They Will Be Safe
The COVID-19 vaccine may have been developed in record speed, but it didn’t come at the expense of safety.
One of the main reasons why vaccines usually take so long to develop is expenses. Funders do not always want to give researchers money upfront, which slows down the process. But for COVID-19, researchers have had practically unlimited resources at their disposal — including funding — which made the process move so quickly.
For example, the average cost of developing a vaccine from start to finish ranges anywhere from $521 million to $5 billion — and that’s for an entire 10-15 years. For the COVID-19 vaccine, the US government invested more than $12 billion upfront.
Also, researchers didn’t have to entirely reinvent the wheel with the COVID-19 vaccine. They were often able to build on previous research on vaccines for other similar coronaviruses.
All COVID-19 vaccines will go through the same regulatory process that other vaccines have gone through and must be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA). And the fact that the vaccine has not yet been approved for children — but is currently being tested in children under 12 — is evidence that the system is working.
They Will Be Free
No one should have to forgo getting a COVID-19 vaccine because they can’t afford it — and under requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), they won’t have to.
CMS recently issued regulations to ensure that every American will have access to a free COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine will even be free if you use an out-of-network provider or if you don’t have insurance.
Bonus: We Are Excited About Them
The COVID-19 vaccine may be the first step toward moving past the pandemic and returning to normal. We are very encouraged by the results so far, and we’re looking forward to helping protect your child from this disease.
We’ll continue to keep you in the loop about vaccines, so stay tuned and check back with us.
Have a safe and happy holiday!
Questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Talk to your child’s pediatrician to learn more.