Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Vermont

A vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is shown before being processed to be administered to the first subjects, health care workers at the University of Vermont Medical Center, Dec. 15.

At this time, there is no approved coronavirus vaccine for young children. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for those 16 years of age and older, and the Moderna vaccine is approved for those age 18 and older.

Dr. William Raszka, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center and member of the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the vaccines were first tested in people most likely to develop symptomatic or severe disease, like elderly adults.

Why are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines not intended for children?

While children can still contract COVID-19, most experience only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even if asymptomatic, children can still spread the virus to household members, including grandparents, teachers and other children.

In Vermont, there have been 312 cases of COVID-19 in children ages 0-9, according to the Department of Health. Seven-hundred and twenty-eight cases were reported in children ages 10-19.

No children in Vermont have died of the virus, according to state data.

Over the summer, it was discovered some children were developing MIS-C, a rare but severe complication of COVID-19, according to the CDC. Drug manufacturers wanted to tread carefully in testing children, Razska said, to make sure no problems were found in children over 12 who were vaccinated.

“So far they have not,” he said.

What would you say to parents who are eager for their children to be vaccinated?

“That is great news,” Razska said. “Pediatricians across the U.S. and world are advocating for enrolling more children in the vaccine trials.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which represents 67,000 pediatricians, pediatric medical specialists and pediatric surgical specialists, called on researchers to include more children in vaccine trials in a letter to federal health officials Nov. 17.

Pfizer began testing its vaccine on children in November, but has not yet released results. Moderna recently announced a study that would include trialing the vaccine in 3,000 children ages 13 to 17.

The letter from AAP also asked health officials to provide clear, transparent information about vaccines, so trust can be sustained between patients and physicians.

“Any missteps in the approach to [COVID-19] vaccine development programs would seriously jeopardize decades of trust and confidence in our pediatric providers and their ability to implement a pediatric immunization program that is globally recognized for its efficiency and effectiveness,” the letter states.

Razska said parents and families will need to be patient, because trialing children typically takes longer than trialing adults.

“Because children seem to develop infection somewhat less commonly than adults and do not develop symptomatic infection as often as adults do, we will need to enroll more children and wait for a longer time to see results,” he said.

In the meantime, children will need to continue wearing masks to school, follow social distancing protocols and wash their hands frequently, health experts say.

“A vaccine is on its way, it will just take longer to get the results than it did in adults,” Razska stated.

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