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When will the COVID vaccine be available to children?

A local expert on infectious diseases breaks down how they study the vaccine in kids.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — You've been sending us a ton of questions asking how vaccines are approved for children and how researchers know when it will be safe. 

Chief of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Dr. Allison Messina, says the trials are currently underway for teens and kids starting at age 12. 

Messina says those trials don't have to have as many participants as they did for adults.

"A lot of the data they were able to obtain from adults, they can now use that information and use that knowledge to inform what they need to study for the children," Messina said. 

Charlie Schmit, 14, eagerly volunteered to be part of the Moderna study in Minneapolis and has already gotten his first dose. 

"I feel accomplished that I'm doing something to help out other people. There's people that need this vaccine," Schmit said. 

Dr. Messina says there's a good reason they are studying it in older kids first.

"They're stepping it incrementally down because a 14-year-old is probably going to behave a bit more like an adult than let's say a 2 or 3-year-old."

Also, younger children are already getting a lot of vaccines for other diseases, so researchers will have to study how the COVID vaccine could affect those.  But no matter what, she says safety will be the key.

"Because it is not as deadly in children, the bar is set very high for this vaccine to be very super safe because you have to weigh that risk versus benefit," Messina said. 

Also, Dr. Messina says immune responses in younger children are much different than in adults. That's why they need boosters of certain shots. So, when they do study the younger under 12 age group, they'll be looking at how long those shots will last and if they'll need more boosters than adults. 

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