When Will COVID-19 Vaccines Be Approved For Children?

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: March 11, 2021

The FDA emergency authorization of safe and effective vaccines was an exciting step in the fight against the virus that causes COVID-19. But the Pfizer vaccine is only authorized for those 16 and older and the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are authorized for those 18 and older. Since children have different immune systems and body functions than adults, the FDA won’t authorize a pediatric vaccine until clinical trials show a vaccine is safe. So, when will the coronavirus vaccine be authorized for use in younger teens and children? And when it is authorized, should children get inoculated?

Manufacturers of the first two vaccines authorized by the FDA for Emergency Use—Pfizer and Moderna—are currently testing their vaccines on children 12 and older. If the vaccines perform well in that age group, and there are no unexpected side effects, the manufacturers will begin to test them in younger children. It is common for vaccines to be thoroughly tested on adults, and determined to be safe when administered to most patients, before researchers begin tests on children. Usually, testing in children is a gradual process, broken down by age group. That way, with each group, researchers will evaluate dosage, frequency and side effects. In October 2020, The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote a letter to federal officials urging them to include children in the clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure Americans have the confidence that the vaccines are safe and effective.

Pfizer currently has children between ages 12 and 15 from across the country enrolled in a clinical trial. During the trial, a double-blind study is conducted, where only half the participants receive the actual vaccine, the other half receive a placebo. Results are expected this summer.

In late 2020, Moderna began clinical testing on adolescents ages 12 through 17. The company plans to enroll 3,000 volunteers in this trial and hopes to have results by the end of summer.

With the Pfizer and Moderna clinical trials for adolescents and children underway, Johnson & Johnson is expected to follow now that its single-shot vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. Oxford-AstraZeneca recently announced it was starting a vaccine trial for 300 child volunteers, ages 6 to 17, the youngest group yet to be tested. We don’t know for sure when the COVID-19 vaccine might be available for children, but estimates range from late summer to fall 2021.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports 12.9% of COVID-19 cases are pediatric patients. Not only can children carry the virus, but they can also pass it along to parents, grandparents, and other vulnerable adults. So, it will be important for kids to be inoculated once the vaccine is deemed safe for children.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.