When Can Children Get the COVID-19 Vaccine and Why Should They Get It?

Dr. Paul Offit talks about COVID-19 vaccines and children.


When can children get the COVID-19 vaccine and why should they get it?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. It's Wednesday, May 12th, 2021. So one question that parents have is, when can my children get the COVID 19 vaccines? It's a reasonable question. Certainly, we know that when the virus first came into this country in March of 2020, among all the infections that were occurring, about 2.4% were occurring in children. Today, in the middle of May 2021, a little more than a year later, it's 24%. So, children represent a pretty significant number or percentage of those infections that are occurring. Secondly, children can get very sick with this virus. I mean, it's estimated that between 300 and 500 children have died from this infection. Certainly, children can be hospitalized with this infection when the virus infects their lungs. And there is another disease called multi-system inflammatory disease of children, where children a month after what is often just a trivial or asymptomatic infection will then present with evidence of fever and infection or damage to their heart and liver and kidney. So, I think there are many reasons then that we need to vaccinate children.

Now, what's happened is when the studies were initially done, the Moderna vaccine studies were done down to18 years of age; Johnson & Johnson down to 18 years of age; Pfizer's vaccine, their mRNA down to 16 years of age, they're the first ones now to have completed trials in the 12- to 15-year-olds. They did a study of about 2,300 children, half the children got the vaccine, half the children got placebo. Of those who were vaccinated, the vaccine was safe. Of those who were vaccinated, the vaccine induced a very high level of virus-specific neutralizing antibodies. That's good. There were 18 cases of COVID in that trial, all of which occurred in the placebo group, which is a pretty high number. I mean, that's 18 of roughly 1,100 children. That's a little less than 2%; that's a little less than 1 in 50 children who then got infected or got sick with COVID in the placebo group. I'm sure that the parents whose children were in the vaccine group were happy that their children were in the vaccine group because not one of them got infected. Whereas the parents whose children happened to end up in the placebo group were probably less happy because 18 of those children suffered infection and disease.

Now with this vaccine being available — it's been FDA approved today; it's going to be approved by the CDC — parents can take the coin flip out of it. They can just simply choose to get this vaccine, which is something that they have wanted in the sense that they say they want their children, and we all want our children to lead normal lives. We want them to be able to go to school. We want them to be able to go to camp. Vaccines provide that safety where we can now safely let those things happen. It gives a chance to have our children get the normal lives that they deserve.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Jun 01, 2021