Anxiety is high among parents as more kids head back to school without the protection of a Covid-19 vaccine for at least a few more months.
Parents have a reason to be concerned. After months of declining cases, the virus is finding the unvaccinated. Adolescents as young as 12 can be vaccinated against Covid-19, but younger children aren’t eligible yet. Children made up nearly a quarter of the reported cases for the week ending August 26. The numbers have “increased exponentially,” reaching levels the United States hasn’t seen since last winter, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday. Children have largely been spared the worst of Covid-19 — ospitalizations and deaths are more rare for children than for adults — although children’s hospitals are filling up in Covid-19 hotspots around the country.
A kids’ vaccine cannot come soon enough, but the process is taking longer than some initially expected. “We had really hoped that maybe we would have something in place before we tried to bring kids back into the school classroom, but, unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do that,” said Dr. Emily Chapman, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Children’s Minnesota.
Trial data are still being gathered for Covid-19 vaccines for younger children. Once the vaccine companies have trial results, they’ll need to submit the information to the US Food and Drug Administration, which will assess the vaccines for authorization. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner who now sits on the board of Covid-19 vaccine maker Pfizer, said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation that the company will likely be able to file the data for 5-11-year-olds for authorization “at some point in September” and then file the application for an emergency use of the vaccine “potentially as early as October.”
“That’ll put us on a time frame where the vaccines could be available at some point late fall, more likely early winter depending on how long FDA takes to review the application,” Gottlieb said. There’s no official timetable once a company submits to the FDA. Emergency use considerations can take several weeks. “There’s always something that makes things not the way we think,” said Dr. Stanley Perlman, who is on the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee and is also a pediatrician and professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa Health Care. “Obviously, we want it done as soon as possible, but we want it done right.”