A few days after Christmas, Molly Hering, 14, and her brother, Sam, 12, got their first shots as part of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trials for kids. Their mom had heard about a clinical trial being conducted at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Molly told me that she’d agreed to join because she wanted to contribute to the vaccine-development effort.
Molly and Sam’s dad was recently hospitalized with COVID-19. (He recovered.) Both kids have spent most of the past year dealing with Zoom school and its attendant technical glitches. Molly finally went back to in-person ninth grade this month, but masks and social distancing are required at school. Like everyone else, she’s looking forward to the end of the pandemic. “I’ll finally be able to go to school normally,” she said.
With COVID-19 vaccines proven to be safe and effective in most adults, Pfizer and Moderna have both begun U.S. trials for kids as young as 12. And if those trials go smoothly, the vaccines will be tested in younger and younger kids. This is typical for new vaccines: “It’s called the age deescalation strategy,” Carol Kao, a pediatrician at Washington University in St. Louis, told me.
There are some 70 million kids in the U.S., nearly a quarter of the country’s population. Children in general are not especially vulnerable to COVID-19; most infections are mild or even asymptomatic. In some very rare cases—fewer than 0.01 percent—young patients can develop a complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, but it is generally quite treatable in a hospital.