Fauci says ‘it’s going to be months’ before a coronavirus vaccine is approved for children

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Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the US Senate about the federal coronavirus response in September 2020. Jennings/Pool/REUTERS

Dr. Anthony Fauci told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the US is “months” away from a coronavirus vaccine that’s approved for children.

It’s normal in vaccine development for children to be studied after adults so that researchers can make sure the shots are safe, and vaccine studies so far have mainly involved adult participants. 

Fauci estimated that the process for approving vaccines for kids will start in January.

That’s a likely hiccup in the reopening of schools, as several cities have suspended or canceled their plan to resume in-person classes.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday warned that a vaccine won’t be approved for children likely until after January. 

Fauci, a world-renowned expert in infectious disease and longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that authorities are “going to start the process very likely in January to get it to the children sooner rather than later.” 

While drugmakers Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca have recently announced promising results for their shots, they have yet to gain the US Food and Drug Administration’s go-ahead for distribution, which requires more safety data, Business Insider’s Andrew Dunn previously reported.

The early shots will likely go to healthcare workers and the elderly, Fauci has said, but other adults could get vaccinated as early as April or June, depending on who you ask. But getting approval to sell vaccines for kids requires further safety data and studies. 

That’s a likely hiccup in the reopening of schools, as several cities have suspended or canceled their plan to resume in-person classes. Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio re-closed New York City schools — sending students in many cases back to their parents for home-schooling — as the city hit a 3% testing positivity rate for the coronavirus. 

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“Children, as well as pregnant women, are vulnerable,” Fauci said on NBC. “So before you put it into the children you’re going to want to make sure you have a degree of efficacy and safety that is established in an adult population, particularly an adult normal population.”

The vaccine studies to date have mainly involved adult participants, which is how vaccine development normally works. Researchers start with young and healthy adults before expanding into more vulnerable groups, Dunn reported in September. 

In late October, Pfizer expanded its trial to include children as young as 12. Moderna is still looking to expand its trial to include teenagers, but Tal Zaks, its Chief Medical Officer, told Axios that a vaccine could be ready for children by the middle of next year.

“It’s going to be months,” Fauci said on Sunday. 

The next steps, according to Fauci, are Phase I and II trials, testing a growing number of patients, and then a bridge study, a research method that commonly allows drugs approved in one region of the world to be deployed in another. 

“You can say okay, now we have safety in the children, we have comparable immunogenicity, namely the same type of immune response — we can get this expeditiously approved for the children before going through a 30,000-person trial that may take a longer period of time,” Fauci said. 

 

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