What’s Up with the Pediatric Trials?

June 17, 2021 update

In most states, adults over age 16 are now eligible to receive a vaccine to protect against Covid-19. It’s hard to believe we’re here, considering that we’ve “only” been in a pandemic for a little over a year now. (Forever-and-a-day in parenting terms = really, really fast in vaccine development terms.) Here are some of the most recent highlights to be aware of:

Pediatric trials are up and running. Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca (which is still not approved for use in the United States) have all launched pediatric vaccine trials. Pfizer has already announced strong results from their adolescent trial, showing that the vaccine was 100 percent effective among participants ages 12-15. Trials enrolling children under 12—and all the way down to six months old—are kicking off now. When can we expect to see kids vaccinated? Not for a while yet, but it’s coming. Dr. Fauci expects high schoolers to have access to the vaccines by fall (and Pfizer’s vaccine is already approved for teens over 16), and elementary-aged children early in 2022. Babies and toddlers will come last.

There are new guidelines for what people can and can’t do once they’re fully vaccinated. The CDC has issued updated guidance on what’s safe to do once you’re fully vaccinated, like hanging out with other fully vaccinated people or a single household of unvaccinated, low-risk people. (If you’re looking for a laugh, here are some other things vaccinated people should still not do.)

AstraZeneca is still not approved in the US. What’s taking so long? All kinds of things, apparently. While AstraZeneca may not play a large role in the US vaccine rollout, it’s an important player through COVAX, the program to expand global vaccine access.

Vaccine supply is ramping up nationwide, but equity and access are still problematic. There are more shots available now than there were a month ago, but there are still racial and ethnic disparities in who has access to those doses, with Latinx and Black Americans receiving fewer shots than white people. (Vaccine hesitancy is not to blame for these disparities; in fact, recent research shows Black and white Americans have similar rates of hesitancy.) If you’re looking for a vaccine appointment, is a good place to start.

But what about those variants?

June 17, 2021 update

If you’re anything like us, it’s a little hard to make heads or tails of all the vaccine information in the news these days. Do they reduce transmission? (Probably.) Can we open schools without them? (The CDC says yes, but it’s complicated.) And the big question on everyone’s minds, of course...what about those variants?

Friendly reminder: We’re not scientists. We only know what we read. But we read a lot. So here are the big things we think parents should know:

Variants happen. Viruses mutate, especially when they’re infecting people at such high rates. So variants are inevitable. They aren’t necessarily bad, but in this case, we’ve seen a few emerge that have helped the virus become more contagious.

The vaccines work. The vaccines we have—both the two that are already approved and others in the pipeline—remain very effective at preventing hospitalizations and death from Covid-19. That’s very good news, and it’s true even for the new variants. When it comes to preventing mild to moderate illness, the vaccines appear to be somewhat less effective against some of the new variants, most notably B.1.351, first identified in South Africa. So we might see more challenges posed by variants as the virus continues to spread.

It’s really important to stop the virus from spreading. The only way to stop a virus from mutating is to stop it from spreading. Scientists believe that the current vaccines will reduce transmission, even if they don’t stop it entirely. Continuing to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols will help, too. These things aren’t forever—they’re just necessarily while we slow the virus down, so that it stops finding bodies to reproduce in.

Bottom line: Try not to panic every time you see a new article about a variant. Over time, we may learn that we need booster shots on a semi-regular basis (just like we do with flu shots)—we just don’t know yet. Regardless, following the CDC’s guidelines, wearing your mask(s), washing hands, and maintaining the social distance rules we’re all accustomed to by now will help keep us all safe. When it’s your turn to get a shot, like any medical decision, it’s personal. But the good news is, science supports the safety and efficacy of the vaccines we have.

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