A COVID-19 vaccine for children could be available next fall

This week, Pfizer reported its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective. Experts say a vaccine for adults could be available by spring, so what does that mean for children?

KIRO 7 asked the doctor in charge of the clinical trial for teens and adolescents at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Dr. Robert Frenck is running the Pfizer vaccine trial.

“In the adolescents, we’re doing 600, 16- and 17-year-olds, and 2,000 12- to 15-year-olds. The number one thing is safety,” said Frenck at Cincinnati Children’s.

Experts think an adult vaccine could be available by April. The approval for children will take longer.

“I don’t think it’s really going to be that far behind the adult data because we’re looking at different outcomes. We’re not looking to enroll 30,000 adolescents. We’re looking to enroll in the hundreds,” said Frenck.

With the teens and adolescents, he said they do a bridging study, looking at the immune system’s response and safety. They don’t have to prove it is effective. Frenck said that’s already happened with the adult study.

“In a bridging study, you say, with adults, I got this level of antibody, and it was protective against disease. Now, if I give 600 or 1,000 adolescents and get the same level of antibody, I can do an extrapolation to say that I’m getting the same level of antibodies, so I should get the same level of protection,” said Frenck.

With the clinical trials for children, he said they get critical data in weeks instead of months.

Katelyn Evans, 16, was first to get the vaccine in the clinical trial at Cincinnati Children’s on Oct. 14.

“If any information they can get from me can help get a vaccine out sooner and help everyone out there, I feel like I can do it,” said Evans.

The supply of the vaccine is expected to be limited, so having it approved for children doesn’t mean they’ll be prioritized to get vaccinated.

Dr. Anna Wald is a virologist at UW Medicine. She is getting ready to run the phase 3 clinical trial of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine for adults.

KIRO 7 talked to Wald about where children could rank when it comes to the availability of the vaccine.

“If you can demonstrate kids drive the spread of it, you would want the kids earlier for immunizations because you can prevent them from giving it to their grandparents,” Wald said.

At Cincinnati Children’s, Frenck is still enrolling more teens and adolescents in the trial.

“I don’t think it’s overly optimistic to say we could have a vaccine available at least for teenagers and maybe younger before the next school year,” said Frenck.