Testing children for the COVID-19 vaccine

World Today

For more than six months now, people have rolled up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 180 million Americans have received at least one dose, but one group has not been part of the effort: young children.

“I was really lucky to have this chance, so I really did not want to turn it down.”

Nine-year-old Daemo Gregorie-Cradick is part of the new Pfizer vaccine trial being conducted by Children’s Hospital Colorado and some 80 other medical facilities. More than two-thousand kids ages 5-11 are part of the study. 

“We will get an idea of whether children who got the vaccine were protected and know their immune response.”

Dr. Eric Simoes is leading Colorado’s portion of the trial in which two-thirds of participants receive the vaccine and one-third a placebo. Based on his first shot, Daemo thinks he got the real thing.

“Kind of like in a way a shiver going down my arm, and that’s never happened before.”

Until now, children under 12, like Daemo, have not been a vaccine priority. Their rates of COVID-19 infection and risk of severe disease are lower than adults.

That’s prompted some experts to urge caution, that too much remains unknown about possible vaccine risks. But the COVID-19 virus has proven fatal to a small number of kids. Simoes says it’s no time to hold back. 

“We can’t predict which child is going to have signs and symptoms that bring the child to the hospital, therefore it behooves us to protect children.”

Especially, he says, when more virulent and contagious disease variants pose a serious threat. 

“Why wait for it to happen before we try to prevent it. Don’t wait for the hurricane to come before you put shutters on the windows.”

“If you become less ill from the virus then you have less chances of spreading the virus to other people, so if everybody becomes vaccinated, there’s less spread going on.” 

Daemo’s father says kids’ lack of social distancing make the vaccine even more of a priority.

“I look and see how groups of people work and play together, this group plays closer in proximity to one another than any other group. Like I don’t see my colleagues and tackle them.”

This part-time fisherman says he’s always interested in learning. He was chosen by lottery for this trial and believes he hit the jackpot with this opportunity.

“Some of my friends didn’t really believe I was going to do this.”

If he got the placebo, he’ll receive the actual vaccine in six months. Pfizer expects data from the study this fall and could ask regulators for emergency approval of the drug soon after.