Cleveland Clinic Doctor Says Pfizer Vaccine For Kids Effective In Trials
Many Northeast Ohio parents are eager to get COVID-19 vaccinations for their young children as the number of sick kids continues to spike.
Pfizer announced Monday early clinical trial data indicate its vaccine is safe and effective for children as young as five.
The two-dose shot produced strong protection against the coronavirus in kids aged five to 11, said Dr. Frank Esper, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic.
“It was extremely effective,” Esper said. “We are very encouraged about this.”
More than 2,200 children were studied and no serious adverse effects have occurred thus far - including heart inflammation, a rare side effect reported in some older adolescents, Esper said.
Researchers monitor pediatric participants more closely than the adult population, he added.
“For pediatrics, there are extra layers of protection. They’re considered a vulnerable population, and so doing research on them requires extra scrutiny, extra safety,” Esper said. “So, that’s why it’s taken extra months – extra months of just watching these kids to make sure they do OK, and they have.”
The pediatric participants received a lower dosage – one-third of the normal dose -- than participants aged 12 and up, he said. As with many medications and vaccines, younger bodies are often not equipped to handle the same dosage as teens and adults, Esper said.
The lower dosage still produced antibody levels as high as the normal dosage, he added.
Esper expects FDA authorization for this age group will come later this fall, if the trials continue to go well, he said.
“It’s just not something we’re going to rush. We’re going to make sure that it’s safe, and we’re going to make sure it works,” Esper said.
Adolescents aged 12 to 15 became eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine back in May. Expanding eligibility to the five to 11 age group will be critical in protecting kids from the more contagious delta variant, which seems to be causing more severe disease in children than original strains, Esper said.
“We’ve had patients admitted in the five to 11 age. I know of that there have been some that have been sick enough to require oxygen, and require prolonged hospitalization,” he said. “There’s even been kids younger than that, that have been hospitalized for coronavirus.”
Researchers are also testing the vaccine in kids as young as 6 months old, but those trials will not be completed for several more months, Esper said.
For weeks, health experts have been calling on parents to vaccinate their eligible young children as pediatric COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Ohio.
The majority of patients admitted for COVID-19 complications at Cleveland Clinic are over the age of 12 and most, if not all, are unvaccinated, Esper said.
“We’re seeing more kids than we’ve ever seen before in the hospital and in the intensive care unit,” he said. “We’re worried that this virus will just figure out a way to cause worse problems in children. The longer we let this virus persist … then the more opportunities this virus has to continue to change and make itself stronger.”
Esper encourages parents who have questions about the vaccine to talk with their child's pediatrician.