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How Pfizer And Moderna Are Working To Vaccinate Young People By The Summer


Vaccine-makers Pfizer and Moderna are testing how well their COVID-19 vaccines work in kids age 12 and up. And as NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, if these trials show the vaccines are safe and effective, the shot could soon be authorized for use in this age group, perhaps by summer.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Dr. Nicole Baldwin is a pediatrician practicing in Cincinnati, Ohio. And when her 16-year-old daughter had the chance to be enrolled in a clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine, she did not hesitate.

NICOLE BALDWIN: People keep discounting kids because they think, oh, kids don't get that sick. They don't need the vaccine.

AUBREY: But she says getting the under-18 population vaccinated could be beneficial. Though most young people tend to have only mild infections, they do get it.

N BALDWIN: You know, not only are our teens getting infected and spreading it, but of the group of kids that get the sickest, it tends to be our older kids, our teenagers.

AUBREY: Baldwin's daughter, Kendall (ph), says she was happy to roll up her sleeve and be part of the vaccine trial.

KENDALL BALDWIN: I feel like a lot of people my age, they're just kind of tired of everything going on.

AUBREY: Missing out on so many activities. And the vaccine, she says, seems to be key to turning this around. So far, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for teenagers her age - 16 and up. This age group is much lower on the priority list, and supplies need to ramp up significantly. But ultimately, the goal is to be able to offer the vaccine to kids of all age groups.

Dr. Emily Erbelding of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says the vaccine-makers have plans to expand their trials further.

EMILY ERBELDING: So starting with age 6 to 12, for example, testing the right dose, testing safety. If things look good, moving down into younger children, perhaps age 2 to 6.

ERBELDING: This will take some time. But since trials don't need to be as large as the initial clinical trials in adults, Dr. Anthony Fauci says it could move fairly quickly.


ANTHONY FAUCI: So that hopefully by the time we get to the late spring and early summer, we will have children being able to be vaccinated according to the FDA's guidance.

ERBELDING: Scientists estimate about 70% to 85% of people need to be immune from the coronavirus to reach herd immunity. And given that kids make up about 20% of the population, pediatrician Lee Savio Beers, who is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says kids play an important role.

LEE SAVIO BEERS: Immunizing children against COVID-19 absolutely will contribute to herd immunity. And the American Academy of Pediatrics has spoken out strongly to really urge that vaccine manufacturers treat pediatric trials with the same urgency that they have with adults.

AUBREY: 16-year-old Kendall Baldwin will find out soon whether she got the placebo or the real thing. And she's waiting for the day it's safe to do things that she misses most.

K BALDWIN: Hanging out with my friends and going to restaurants or movies.

AUBREY: But for now, it's time to stay vigilant, especially as more contagious variants of the virus circulate. It will still be months before everyone who wants a vaccine can get one. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LULLABY'S "COCOONING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.