Since the beginning of the year, vaccination rollouts across the globe have been swift. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies like Astrazeneca, Phizer/BioNTech, and Sinovac Biotech, to name a few, have finished developing their vaccines and have gotten clearance from the government, deeming them safe to administer.
As of now, many people have either received their first jab or are fully vaccinated. According to Google’s tracker, in the US, 321 million doses have been administered, including 46% of the American population fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, the Philippines is far from the vaccination advancement the US has achieved. From Google’s tracker again, here in the Philippines, only 8.9 million doses have been administered and the percentage of the population fully vaccinated is 2.1%.
It is important to highlight that the statistics presented above reflect adults. These adults include healthcare frontliners, senior citizens, and professionals — both young and middle-aged. Children below the age of 18 are not getting vaccinated.
Now, this begs to ask: When will COVID-19 vaccination be available to children?
As of now, vaccines cannot be administered to children below the age of 18. The youngest age one can receive the vaccine is 16 years old, which is the Pfizer vaccine. Other vaccine developers like Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Sinovac are authorized only for ages older than 18.
Now just because the current vaccines being sent out for distribution are already authorized for usage by the government does not mean it is cleared for everyone’s convenience. The testing conducted last year was mainly for adults. Due to differences in vaccine reaction and dosage, immunity between children and adults — overall safety — it was imperative to establish a safe and effective vaccine for adults before moving on to children.
As of now, Phizer/BioTech and Moderna have begun testing vaccines on children. This may seem like a touchy subject since testing on children can be associated with some bioethical violations. However, these companies have reassured everyone of the safety of the kids by following a code of ethics. To expound, the first two phases of vaccine testing will be like how the vaccine will be tested on children. Using the same data released by these companies, since both phases one and two have been a success in terms of the safety of the test subjects, the same can be expected for the preteen test subjects.
To add further to the current update, companies are looking for volunteers aged 12-17. The plan is to enroll around 5,000 test subjects spanning six months. For ages even younger than the range mentioned above, around the same number of test subjects are expected, but this awaits future statistics.
According to Dr. Richard Malley, a senior physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital, he said that the process starts with figuring out an optimal dosage for kids. The goal is to find the lowest possible dose that produces a robust immune response. Once that has been figured out, the vaccine developers plan to randomly assign two-thirds of the young test subjects to get the vaccine, while the rest of the group will receive a placebo. Aside from producing an active response from the lowest possible dosage, the main goal will always be the safety of the kids. If volunteers are recruited quickly enough and the development of the vaccine is fast, then the vaccine for this age group should arrive by 2022.
One known fact about COVID-19 is that the complications brought about by this pandemic are more adverse in adults than in children. Children generally have a higher immunity compared to adults. Hence, children are generally safer when it comes to experiencing serious reactions to the vaccine. However, this is just based on the statistics from adult testing. Since the actual testing in children has yet to commence, no one can say for sure. Once testing begins in kids, more information will be brought to light.
After stating that the effects of COVID-19 are generally mild in children, one might ask if vaccination in children is necessary? And the answer to that is yes. Definitely. Even if children exhibit mild symptoms from the virus, children can still become carriers of it and infect adults, especially adults who have a high risk of showing serious and deadly symptoms from COVID-19. In addition to this, it has been known that older children spread the virus more than younger kids do. Therefore, the best plan of action is to move towards vaccination of these children who may be contributing most to transmission. It is also important to add that some kids are also high-risk when it comes to being very sick from COVID-19. All in all, children must get vaccinated even if the immunity is generally higher than others.
As mentioned above, the vaccines for children may arrive around 2022. This all depends on how fast the vaccine is developed, how quickly these companies can recruit volunteers, and of course, approval from pertinent authority figures. Once these companies are given the proverbial green light, these vaccines will be made available for shipping. When it comes to other countries, the delay in vaccination may be caused by shipping them to the respective country. For local governments, they must secure these services immediately to vaccinate the children without delay.
To conclude, vaccination for children is a must as well as adults. The goal for the whole world right now is to achieve herd immunity as soon as possible so that everyone can go back to normal. While it may be convenient to just stay in the comforts of our homes in times of a pandemic, the world was made for us to experience it, not to just stay confined at home. Particularly the children, who should be outdoors playing with their neighbors or going to elementary school. If the whole world can achieve herd immunity at once, then the children will be able to experience the world for what it is. After all, the youth is the future of the world.
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Written by Cholo Hermoso