Medical experts say that a coronavirus vaccine for children may take more time than expected as kids are not the target group in the current situation. Experts say adults may be most vulnerable to the coronavirus, but ending the pandemic will require vaccinating children as well.
People across the globe are waiting for a safe Covid-19 vaccine. While the availability of a vaccine remains the top focus, medical experts say the availability of vaccines for kids could take longer than expected.
Vaccinating children will be essential if Covid-19 has to be completely controlled, say medical experts. But they believe that it might take a while before the vaccine is available for kids.
Speaking to India Today TV, Dr. Fazal Nabi, Director, Department of Paediatrics, Jaslok Hospital, said only a handful of coronavirus vaccine trials include children as participants.
“Oxford-AstraZeneca trial is one of them. Chinese company Sinovac Biotech will include children ages 3 to 17 in an upcoming trial, according to ClinicalTrials.gov, but by and large, most vaccine developers have not launched similar trials with participants younger than age 18. And in the US, no children have been enrolled in coronavirus vaccine trials. Vaccine developers could launch trials for older children ages 12 to 17. If a vaccine appears safe and effective in this group, the trials could then continue in younger and younger children,” Dr. Nabi said.
Dr. Samir Sheikh, Neonatology consultant, Wockhardt Hospital agrees. He attributes the delay to the fact that the target group is the adult population right now.
“If we see the history of the development of any medicine, we will see that there is almost a lag of eight years between the development of adult medicine treatment and the pediatric population. Once the vaccine is found to be effective and safe on the Level 1 target group i.e. adults only then the next phase of the special age group is focused upon. The special group which includes the pediatric population, cancer patients, pregnant women, and the elderly aren’t supposed to be kept in the first phase of the trial. Once the long-term safety, efficacy is established only then the special group is included.”
The doctor adds that vaccine development goes through various stages. “First is the data collection, second is recognizing the target population and third is testing the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.”
Children generally have a far lower risk of hospitalization and death compared to adults but doctors warn that untested vaccines could pose higher risks than the virus itself.
“Vaccines typically get tested in adults before children to allow their safety profiles to be fully assessed and their potential risks minimized before they are given to kids. Typically, after trials in 12 to 17-year-olds, vaccine developers move on to 5 to 12-year-olds, then to children below five years of age. It’s not going to be likely that very young infants will be part of the studies early on,” says Dr. Fazal Nabi.
The global hunt for the Covid-19 vaccine is on. The trials for adults have enrolled many participants but doctors say the pace of doing a pediatric study is not usually that fast. And that is a concern.
Initially, many believed that kids cannot come under the grip of Covid19 but that proved wrong with time. Efforts are now being put to understand Covid-19 among kids as well.
With schools reopening in some areas, cases among children are bound to rise. At present, however, they are not the testing target group.