Kim Hagood hates needles. But as a middle-aged adult with chronic conditions, she got vaccinated against COVID-19 without delay. “I never thought I’d be so excited to get a shot,” she told me, giddily, hours before her appointment. A single mother in Trussville, Alabama, Hagood is less certain about vaccinating her 10-year-old son when the time comes. The fact that the mRNA technology in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines hasn’t been used before in kids gives her pause. “I think everyone should be hesitant until the studies are done,” she said.
The decisive moment for parents like her is drawing near, as the first results from clinical trials in teens have started to come in. Just last week, Pfizer announced that its vaccine has so far been safe for children ages 12 to 15, and said that it plans to seek emergency-use authorization for this age group “as soon as possible.” Others will follow. “For adolescents, vaccines will probably be available in the fall,” estimates Paul Spearman, the director of the infectious-diseases division at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “For younger kids, it’ll probably be early 2022.”
The impending rollout of vaccines to children will be important for protecting kids from needless suffering, and pediatric vaccination will save lives in other age groups as well. In many places, adults are delaying vaccination, and surveys show that one-fifth are outright refusing it. If large numbers of people continue in the latter mindset, vaccinating children will be central to any hope of reaching herd immunity.