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Anyone 16 and older can be vaccinated for COVID-19, but researchers hope to open up vaccinations for those under 16 soon. Clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine with children ages 12–15 have shown promising results.
"In the last month or so, we have seen Pfizer release some really exciting data in the 12- to 15-year age group from their clinical trial that showed the vaccine to be highly effective — 100% effective in that trial — and very well-tolerated in that age group without any serious side effects," says Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases specialist.
Data have been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for review and possible emergency use authorization that would clear kids over 12 to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Reportedly, that FDA authorization could happen as soon as next week.
"I think in the pediatric community, we're all really hopeful that this happens before the start of the next school year because vaccination would be a really great additional preventive measure that we can use in schools to help keep our kids and teachers safe," says Dr. Rajapakse.
Over the past few weeks, COVID-19 vaccine trials began for younger children as well. Both Moderna and Pfizer are studying their COVID-19 vaccines on children 6 months to 11 years old.
Researchers hope to have enough data to enable kids in this age group to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the beginning of 2022. The approval for the youngest children may take a bit longer because the initial phase of the studies looks at establishing the optimal dose. Researchers are first enrolling the older age group, 5–11 years, before the younger age group, 2–5 years, and then infants, 6 months–2 years. The approval for children who are 6 months to 11 years old may not occur all at once. Pfizer has announced that the first results for children 5–11 could be available by July and younger children by September.
"It'll be some time before we have preliminary results from those trials. So, hopefully, toward the end of this year, we might be hearing back on some of that data. And most projections say, best case scenario — maybe by early 2022 — we might be able to have a vaccine for that age group," says Dr. Rajapakse.