It will be months before Canada can start giving kids the COVID-19 vaccine, expert says
On Tuesday the first children were vaccinated in Moderna’s Phase 2/3 pediatric COVID-19 trial
It will be some months from now before it's known when kids will get a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, head of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at McMaster University, said Tuesday.
On Tuesday the first children were vaccinated in Moderna's Phase 2/3 pediatric COVID-19 vaccine trial.
The company announced that the clinical trial, called the KidCOVE study, will enroll approximately 6,750 children in the US and Canada between the ages of 6 months and 11 years old.
"Clinical trials are underway now by AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer, looking at the immunogenicity of these vaccines and kids, how well they work," Pernica said on CBC KW's The Morning Edition.
"But I'm not sure we're going to see results in these trials until summer or fall. And it will only be after these data are available that jurisdictions such as Ontario can plan on when to give it to kids, so it would be some months from now I would say."
Vaccines will be safe for kids
Pernica is confident that vaccines — when approved — will be safe for kids.
He said he does not know of another vaccine that is safe in adults and not safe in kids.
"If we look at the pediatric age group that probably has the most to benefit from the vaccine — adolescents — the immune system of teenagers is often better than that of adults, especially older adults. And there are some vaccines where, you know, teenagers only need two shots, though adults need three," Pernica said.
"So I think they're going to be safe. I just don't think we should forget that when we vaccinate these children, it's mostly to stop spread in the population at large and not so much for their individual health.
"I mean, COVID-19 is much, much more dangerous than influenza in adults, especially older adults, whereas for kids, you know, getting COVID-19 is sort of comparable to getting influenza. Sometimes you get sick, but the vast majority of the time you do not," Pernica said.
Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people aged 16 and older, while the Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those 18 and up.
Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Supriya Sharma, has said there's not enough data from the initial clinical trials to know how the vaccines affect kids.
Health challenges raised by COVID-19
Meanwhile, Pernica said there are things people should be doing now to better address the health challenges that have been raised by COVID-19 in children, even before they get the vaccine.
"I think many of us don't think about what the impact has been on our children. The educational impact of missing school is tremendous, and that's not even taking into account what has happened to their physical health and, to many, their mental health," Pernica said.
"I would say that psychiatrists and adolescent mental medicine specialists are seeing much more depression, anxiety eating disorders now than they ever have before.
There is so much that we need to do more for our children, even if they're just going to catch up to where they were pre-pandemic," Pernica said.
With files from CBC KW's The Morning Edition and CBC News