Adults and children as young as five years old are already able to get COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S., but parents of babies and small children have been anxiously wondering when younger kids might be offered the same protection.
We’ve got a hopeful—though certainly not set-in-stone—prediction from Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. For children six months to four years old, he thinks the vaccine will be ready sooner rather than later. “Hopefully within a reasonably short period of time, likely the beginning of next year in 2022, in the first quarter of 2022, it will be available to them,” Dr. Fauci told Insider. He quickly added a caveat, saying he “can’t guarantee it, you’ve got to do the clinical trial.”
Vaccine trials for kids under five have already begun for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. As with the other age groups, the companies will need to submit their trial results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for evaluation. Pfizer-BioNTech, which got a bit of a head start on trials for younger children, said in September that results could be ready “as soon as the fourth quarter of this year,” as NPR reported. From there, the FDA will decide whether to grant the vaccines an emergency use authorization.
There’s evidence that babies born to people who were vaccinated while pregnant may already have some level of antibody protection against SARS-CoV-2. “In numerous studies of vaccinated moms, antibodies were found in the umbilical cord blood of babies and in the mother’s breast milk,” Linda Eckert, M.D., a physician and member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist’s (ACOG) Immunization, Infectious Disease, and Public Health Preparedness Expert Work Group, previously told SELF. But it’s not clear how long that protection lasts.
While children are less likely than adults to get seriously sick from COVID-19, it’s still possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Per the CDC, children who catch COVID-19 can sometimes go on to develop serious, potentially life-threatening multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), where essential organs such as the heart or brain become inflamed. Babies under age one may be at higher risk because of their developing immune systems and smaller airways, according to the Mayo Clinic, and children with underlying conditions are also more at risk for severe illness. And even children with mild illness can spread the virus to others.
While we wait on a COVID-19 vaccine option for babies and very young kids, one of the best things we can do to protect them from getting sick is to get the people around them vaccinated. That means having productive conversations with loved ones who remain skeptical about vaccines and signing up older children to get their dose. We’re likely on the brink of all adults being eligible for booster vaccines too, which can help combat potential waning immunity in people who are six months out from their second shot of Pfizer or Moderna, or two months out from their Johnson and Johnson single-shot vaccine.
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