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Clinical trials are underway to test COVID-19 vaccines in children under 12. Jacob Lund/Getty Images
  • Experts expect that a COVID-19 vaccination for children under 12 could be available by September or October.
  • Clinical trials are underway to test the vaccines in younger children.
  • Experts say it’s important to vaccinate children of all ages to achieve herd immunity in the United States.

When might your child be eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

It depends on their age and what vaccine is available in your area.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded its emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to include children ages 12 to 16.

Meanwhile, clinical trials are underway to test the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in children under 12.

“Those studies are in progress, and I look forward to the results of those studies,” Dr. Dean A. Blumberg, chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of California, Davis, told Healthline.

“There’s nothing really magic about the difference between a 12-year-old and an 11-year-old, but you just have to do the studies to prove the vaccines are safe and effective,” he explained.

“You have to do them by different ages because we know that the dose may need to be adjusted, either a decreased dose if it’s a weight-based dose or maybe an increased dose due to the immature immune system and to look for any kind of unusual side effects that may occur while achieving a robust immune response.”

Right now, Pfizer is undertaking clinical trials in healthy children ages 6 months to 11 years. Children are being studied in three age groups: 6 months to 2 years, 2 to 5 years, and 5 to 12 years.

Moderna is also undertaking a clinical trial for children ages 6 months to 11 years. Johnson & Johnson and Novavax are continuing trials in adolescents between 12 and 17.

The results from the trials in young children are expected to be available in the latter part of the year.

“Pfizer has stated that they think they’re going to have enough data to submit an emergency use authorization for younger children by September,” Blumberg said. “The turnaround from the FDA once they receive the application to approve it has generally been around 1 month, so perhaps later in September or October we might get approval for use in younger ages.”

Blumberg noted that there will be mixed responses among parents about getting their children vaccinated.

“People are all over the spectrum on their motivation to be vaccinated,” Blumberg said. “There are some parents who desperately want their children to be vaccinated. They’re scared of COVID, they know that their children may get sick, they want their children to return to school and their normal activities with peace of mind. These are the ones who are enthusiastic about getting vaccinated.

“Then, there’s those who might just want a little more experience with the vaccines and might want to wait and see and don’t want to be first in line,” he continued.

“Then, there are those who are vaccine-hesitant, and we have to do some education and make sure they are aware of the experience that we have with vaccines is really robust. The safety system works and is excellent. We’ve had over 270 million vaccine doses administered in the U.S. and more than 1.3 billion doses of COVID vaccines administered worldwide.”

Blumberg is hopeful once vaccines are approved for use in young children, the United States will move a step closer to achieving herd immunity and returning to a sense of normality.

“As long as there is a significant segment of the population that is not immune, we are not going to get to herd immunity, and we’re going to have continuing transmission and that segment of the population is going to be vulnerable to infection,” he said.

“We have seen that in the past couple of weeks, children have represented over 20 percent of new infections. That’s because the new infections are going to occur in those who are not immune, and right now, that’s children, because the younger children are not eligible for vaccination yet,” he added.