CDC expected to approve COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12 and older; vaccine experts say younger children are just months away

Posted at 4:51 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 20:55:12-04

The CDC is expected to give final emergency use approval Wednesday for children ages 12 to 16 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccine trials are already underway for even younger children to be next in line.

Milwaukee’s health commissioner said she’s hopeful that by Thursday, kids 12 and older will be able to get vaccinated at sites like the Wisconsin Center. Vaccine experts said children younger than 12 may only have to wait a few more months until they’re eligible.

Kenneth Moore of Milwaukee takes his three kids to the park a couple times a week, but he said they’re plenty eager to get back to normal activities like sleepovers with their friends.

“Sometimes brothers and sisters get tired of being around each other. They want to be around other kids,” he said.

Moore said that won’t happen until they’re vaccinated and since they’re all under age 12, there’s no date set in stone to get their long-awaited shots. When asked if he has any concerns about his kids getting vaccinated, Moore responded, “At this point I don’t because of how COVID spread and it seems like new strains coming out, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Dr. William Hartman is the lead investigator for UW-Health’s Astra Zeneca vaccine trials, but he’s been keeping a close eye on the results of Pfizer’s youth trials, which found the vaccine to be 100 percent effective for preventing symptomatic coronavirus cases for kids ages 12 to 16.

“The data looks very, very good,” Dr. Hartman said. “It seems like it was an easy call for the FDA to go ahead and approve this for this age group.”

Dr. Ben Weston with the Medical College of Wisconsin said the kids who participated in trials reported similar side effects to what adults have experienced nationwide.

“Many had a bit of a sore arm and less than that had the same sort of things we’ve been seeing with the vaccine, things like fatigue, headache, chills,” he said.

After the anticipated approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12 to 16 on Wednesday, Dr. Hartman said children ages 6 months old to 12 years old will likely be able to get vaccinated by the end of the year, starting oldest to youngest. But two things need to be determined in trials first: the size of the doses, followed by efficacy.

“Children tend to have a very robust immune response and so they don’t quite need the same high dose that adults would need for the same vaccine,” Dr. Hartman explained.

Dr. Hartman said kids were the last to go to COVID-19 trials, in order to focus on the most vulnerable groups first such as the elderly and healthcare workers.

“It wasn’t that kids were ignored; it’s just that they tend not to get as sick with COVID-19 and so we were just in more of a hurry to get the other ones taken care of first," said Hartman.

Since kids younger than 16 make up 20 percent of the state’s population, Dr. Hartman knows vaccinating kids will play a crucial role in reaching herd immunity.

Dr. Hartman said vaccinations for kids younger than 12 will likely come in phases similar to the 12 to 16 age group. He believes kids ages 8 to 12 will likely be able to get immunized as soon as September, followed by ages 2 to 8 in the fall. All kids older than 6 months old are expected to be eligible before the end of the year.

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