ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Now that the U.S. has started rolling out Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11, many parents are wondering when kids even younger will be able to get the shot.
While experts say it might not be until early next year, vaccine trials are already underway for kids as young as 6 months. Some are taking place locally, including at Rochester Clinical Research.
“I was more than willing to put my kids in this clinical trial so that other kids across the globe could get the vaccine and I really hope that people trust the science and just go for it,” said parent Courtney Finnerty.
Finnerty’s two boys, Liam (3) and Owen (1), were enrolled in the vaccine trial with RCR this summer. They received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and have been monitored closely. It’s unclear if either of them received a placebo, but Finnerty says things have gone really well.
“If they had any side effects, they’re extremely minimal,” Finnerty said. “But then again, I’m seeing in older 5 to 11 year olds, when I’m asking my friends, a lot of the kids aren’t even getting side effects or very minimal things, like sore arms or a few fevers. But for the most part, kids are responding very well.”
Rochester Clinical Research currently has close to 30 children under the age of 5 in the vaccine trial. The study is broken down into two age cohorts. One, with children 2 to less than 5 years of age. The other, with children 6 months to less than two years of age.
The principal investigator for the trial, Dr. Janet Casey, said she is pleased with how things have been going so far.
“The vaccine is being tolerated quite well by this youngest age group. Remember, kids… they’re tough, they’re resilient, their immune systems are strong,” Casey said.
The kids in these trials receive a lower dose than other age groups. Dr. Casey said they are receiving 3 micrograms of the vaccine, whereas individuals over 12 get 30 micrograms and kids ages 5 to 11 get 10.
“That dose was arrived at during an earlier study that looked at what dose works best for kids in that age group that produces the least amount of side effects,” Casey said.
While the trial is still ongoing, Casey said it has been an important step in the fight against COVID-10. Although kids are less likely to get seriously ill from the virus, experts say it’s still important that they get vaccinated.
“It isn’t just about the child, right? They can transmit the illness to their family members, to their parents, to their aunts, to their uncles, to their grandparents, and those are the ones who are less likely to do well,” Casey said.
“In order to get through this pandemic, we need to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can to decrease the likelihood of continued infections. Remember, every single new infection that comes about is an opportunity for the virus to mutate and transform into another variant that might render our vaccines less effective. And then the pandemic will persist and persist and persist.”
Finnerty said thinking about protecting others is one reason she wanted her two boys to get the vaccine.
“I’d like to help make sure that they’re not a reason that somebody else in the community gets sick and really gets hurt from the virus. So I think this is our way of doing our part,” Finnerty said.
“I think that it’s really, really important for us to consider not just the risk of COVID to our kids, but recognizing children, they make up a very large portion of our population, so by our kids getting vaccinated we’re helping to create this herd immunity to help reduce the transmission to older people who are going to be at much higher risk.”
As for when your young ones could get vaccinated, it could still be a few months. Casey said they are still in the enrollment process for their trial.
“The hope is that that data will be compiled and sent to the FDA possibly as early as next month,” Casey said. “With what we know so far from the data, it’s looking quite positive. And hopefully the vaccine will become approved for children under five sometime in early 2022.”
Along with Rochester Clinical Research, URMC is also studying the vaccine in children 6 months to 12-years old. Their trials are with both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.