Why a Covid-19 vaccine for children is taking so long

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Why the Covid-19 vaccine for children is taking so long
Why the Covid-19 vaccine for children is taking so long

Did you know, it is estimated that because of vaccines five lives are saved every five minutes around the world? 

It is hoped that the Covid-19 vaccine, which is currently being administered to South Africa's healthcare workers, is the start of a life saving intervention to stop the Covid-19 pandemic that has caused havoc around the world for the past year. 

The rollout is taking a three-phase approach that begins with the most vulnerable in the population, who are also over the age of 18. No children will be vaccinated, yet. 

There are several vaccines in production, but the Pfizer-BioNTech option is the only one approved for people from age 16, the rest have been approved for people over 18. 

Experts believe that including children and adolescents in vaccine programs is key to defeating the  Covid-19 pandemic, but, as reported by Health24, a child-approved vaccine may not be available for a long time. 

Also see: When will children get the vaccine? An expert answers your burning questions 

This is because, before vaccines can be delivered, they must be proven safe and effective in large clinical trials, and child based trials require specific regulations and protections for testing new medications, to reduce risk.

Most countries have strict regulations and protections in place for testing new medications in children, and vaccine trials for adults and children are conducted separately. 

This is in part because children’s immune systems are still maturing and are therefore also unpredictable. Children might react to the virus, and the vaccine, differently or have side effects that don't appear in adults. 

The American Food and Drug Administration also requires six months of safety data when testing on adolescents, as opposed to just two months on the fast tracked adult vaccine. 

Another hurdle is recruiting children for testing, as parents are often reluctant to volunteer their offspring.  

Also read: Is the pandemic scarring our children for life? And how can we help? 

In what is known an as an 'age de-escalation strategy', the next Covid-19 vaccine trials will test full-dose vaccines on children over 11 years old, reports the Smithsonian

After that, children over six years old, and then to infants will be tested. Some scientists are in favour of testing half- and quarter-dose vaccines in younger children.  

National Geographic reported that Pfizer has enrolled over 2 000 teenage volunteers in a vaccine trial, and they hope to have initial data by the middle of 2021, while Moderna is still in the recruiting phase and expects to have data in 2022.

However, Dr. Fauci, the American physician-scientist and immunologist who serves as the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, recently said US children as young as six may be vaccinated by September.

Parent24 asked parents if, when a Covid-19 vaccine for under 16's becomes available, they will take their children to get it, and 38% of respondents said "Yes, immediately", while 36% said no, as they didn't think it was necessary. 

The remaining 25% of parents polled said they'd wait to see how others respond. 

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