COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens: What We Do – and What We Don’t Know – Harvard Health Blog


Vaccines have been announced as the main measure to slow and one day end the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day, millions of American adults receive one of the approved vaccines that have proven to be highly effective in preventing severe disease that would otherwise lead to hospitalization and death. in the United States, Most people are over 65 They are now fully vaccinated, protecting the most vulnerable among our population.

As an infectious disease specialist, my responses to the questions below are based on what we know so far about infections and vaccines in children and adolescents. We will need to continue filling in the gaps as we conduct the research and advance our understanding.

What do we know about how COVID-19 affects children and teens?

Most cases of COVID-19 infections in children are mild or do not cause obvious symptoms. However, a small percentage of children are affected

  • Develop A serious inflammatory condition called MIS-C Within two to six weeks after contracting COVID-19. This may happen even in children who have mild or no symptoms.
  • Are seriously ill and need hospital or intensive care.

More than 400 children have died from COVID-19 infection. That’s more than the number of child deaths during the deadliest flu season in the past two decades.

Vaccinating children to prevent these outcomes is one of the main reasons driving vaccine studies in children. Moreover, vaccinating children will be critical to achieving a population level of immunity – herd immunity – sufficient to slow the emergence of dangerous variants and put an end to the epidemic.

What do we know so far about COVID-19 vaccines in teens?

  • The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is approved for use in persons 16 years of age or older.
  • Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for use by people 18 years of age or older.
  • These licenses were based on data from participants of these ages in randomized placebo-controlled trials that demonstrated the safety and efficacy of these vaccines. Effectiveness measures how well a vaccine works under the controlled conditions for a study. Effectiveness is how effectively a vaccine works outside of the study, when people in the community receive it.

As countries expand eligibility to receive COVID-19 vaccines, teens 16 years of age or older can receive the appropriate vaccine through the same sources that adults have had access to so far. The locations of the vaccinations available may vary by state and where you receive health care. Check out the searchable map on VaccineFinder, Or the health board of your state.

Vaccine research that has been conducted to date, or is currently under way, includes the following:

  • Pfizer / BioNTech completed the trial for 12-15 year olds. This trial used the same vaccine dosage and schedule as used in adults: two doses three weeks apart. The company announced in prof Press release The vaccine was safe and well tolerated, elicited strong antibody responses, and was 100% effective in preventing mild to severe infections in this age group. The FDA is reviewing data and will consider allowing this vaccine to be used in this age group. If all goes well, we might expect this vaccine to be available to 12 to 15 year olds in the coming months.
  • Moderna completed enrolling children 12 to 17 years old in a similar trial using the same dose and schedule as adults: two doses four weeks apart. Data from this experiment is expected within the next few months.
  • Johnson & Johnson has begun testing its vaccine for a small number of people between the ages of 16 and 17. If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective in that age group, then the trial will be continued in people between the ages of 12 and 15.

What about the COVID-19 vaccine trials for younger children?

  • Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna have started trials in children between the ages of 6 months and 11 years.
  • Each of these trials will begin with testing smaller doses than those given to older children, teens, and adults. This allows researchers to determine which dose is well tolerated and still produces strong antibody results in younger children.
  • Once the dose is determined, greater numbers of children in these age groups will be enrolled in placebo-controlled trials to evaluate the effectiveness of these vaccines.

All of these steps will take some time to be done without cutting any corners as far as safety is concerned. The first vaccines will likely be available for younger children in late 2021, or possibly as early as 2022.

What is not yet known about COVID-19 vaccines in children and adolescents?

  • How long should vaccine-induced immunity to COVID-19 infection in children be monitored over time. Findings from studies such as these will help experts determine whether children will need a boost to COVID-19 vaccines in the future.
  • Researchers also need to study whether COVID-19 vaccines can be combined with other vaccines that children routinely receive. For now, the CDC recommends that no further vaccinations be given within 14 days of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is true for people of any age.
  • Researchers will need to evaluate the effect of these vaccines in protecting children from the COVID-19 variants. But biologically, there would be no reason to expect differences in vaccine coverage of variants in adults versus children.


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