MILWAUKEE — Covid-19 vaccines for our youngest children took a major step forward Wednesday.
Moderna announced its vaccine is effective for children six months old to six years old. The company is now working to get Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.
Dr. William Hartman, the principal investigator for UW Heath’s Moderna Pediatric Vaccine Trial, expects this age group to be getting the vaccine by summer.
Hartman is also a father of five.
“We’ve seen how kids lives have been so disrupted over the past two years,” he said. “We wanted to be able to get the world back to a place where kids can have the same experiences growing up that we had. No more mask mandates, virtual school or canceled sports and events. This is a big step in that direction.”
UW Health’s clinical trials included children from Madison and Milwaukee.
“They are the real heroes,” Dr. Hartman said. “They got the vaccines even though it’s hard for children to go through that. They came in regularly for blood work and nasal swabs. They did the hard work for all of us.”
Dr. Hartman says Moderna’s pediatric vaccine did not pose any significant risk to the roughly 6,700 children who participated in the trials.
“The worst side effect any child had was a fever after the second dose,” he said.
Moderna’s pediatric vaccine is a quarter of the dose used for adults. Kids are given two doses 28 days apart.
Moderna reports it was about 44 percent effective at preventing Covid-19 infection in children six months to two years old, and 38 percent effect for two to six year olds. That’s roughly the same antibody response the vaccine generated in adults.
“These trials were done at the peak of Omicron in January which affected so many children,” Dr. Hartman said. “With time, we will be able to increase that effectiveness even more with potential tweaks to the vaccine and a booster shot which is being studied already.”
As for Pfizer’s version of the children’s vaccine, the company says it’s awaiting data results that should be complete in April.
Children under five remain the only age group left in the U.S. that are not yet eligible for a Covid vaccination.