Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday released data on the effectiveness of their Covid-19 vaccine in children ages five to 11, leading health officials to say a vaccine for children could be available soon. But recent polling suggests some parents may be hesitant to give the vaccine to their kids.
A Covid-19 vaccine for kids could be ready in 'weeks'
Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday announced they will file for authorization of their Covid-19 vaccine for use in children ages five to 11, citing clinical data showing the vaccine is safe in children and generates a strong antibody response.
Specifically, in their clinical trial, Pfizer and BioNTech found that children ages five to 11 who received a 10 microgram dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine had an antibody response comparable to those ages 16 to 25 who received a 30 microgram dose—the normal dosage that adults receive.
William Gruber, SVP of vaccine clinical research and development at Pfizer, said the reported side effects among children, including fevers and chills, were similar to those reported among individuals ages 16 to 25.
Pfizer's report on the trial did not directly evaluate whether the vaccine reduced children's chances of developing Covid-19. According to Gruber, there weren't enough Covid-19 cases in the study population to draw conclusions on that point.
Following the announcement, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Tuesday said that children ages five to 11 could be eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine within weeks.
"I would imagine we're talking in a matter of weeks, possibly by the end of the month, beginning of next month, because I know the FDA really wants to do it correctly, but they want to do it quickly," he said.
Polls suggest some parents are hesitant to vaccinate their children
But even though a vaccine may be available for children soon, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll suggests many parents may be hesitant to get their children vaccinated.
According to the poll, which was conducted between July 15 and Aug. 2, just 26% of respondents said they would get their child vaccinated once a vaccine is authorized. A further 40% said they would "wait and see," 25% said they definitely would not vaccinate their child, and 9% said they would vaccinate their child only if the shots were required.
Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at KFF, noted the poll was conducted before the most recent surge in Covid-19 cases fully hit and before most children had returned to school. "We don't know how much having kids in school and more kids being infected and in the hospital has changed parents' intentions," Hamel said.
A separate poll, however, suggested that a significantly higher share of parents who are health care workers would be willing to vaccinate their children.
The poll of 2,000 health care workers, which was conducted by the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response & Outcomes (HERO) Registry, found that 60% of respondents with children under the age of 12 planned to vaccinate their children as soon as a shot was authorized. A further 30% said they would "wait and see," about 5% said they would vaccinate their child only if the shot was required, and 4% said they would not vaccinate their child.
According to Hamel, "Parents' biggest concern are potential long-term effects. People really are weighing the risks differently when it comes to kids."
For instance, Michelle Goebel, a 36-year-old parent of three from California, says she isn't ready to vaccinate her kids, citing small trial sizes in children and a lack of long-term safety data.
Meanwhile, René LaBerge, a 53-year-old parent from Texas, said she intends to vaccinate her 11-year-old son once he's eligible, but is anxious for health officials to thoroughly review the data first.
"I don't want my son to take something that is unsafe," she said. "I believe Covid is dangerous. There aren't any good easy answers here." (Saric, Axios, 9/21; Petersen/Chaker, Wall Street Journal, 9/21; Mervosh/Goldstein, New York Times, 9/20; Gooch, Becker's Hospital Review, 9/14)