Therefore, when officials meet, they will weigh a complicated set of factors. What is the probability that a child will be infected with Covid? How much protection does a vaccine offer? What are the possible symptoms and complications that children may face while taking it?
With all these questions in mind, says Blumberg, “the benefits for this age group clearly outweigh the risks.”
In fact, the study data and analysis showed that vaccinating children prevents serious infections and deaths with very little risk in almost every Covid scenario.
What the studies found
Pfizer’s study, which began in March 2021, took nearly 2,300 children and two-thirds of them received a two-dose vaccination while the others received a placebo. The vaccinations were given 21 days apart and, above all, at a lower dose than in the elderly – a third of the amount of the vaccine.
In the study, three vaccinated children contracted Covid, while there were 16 cases in the placebo group – an effectiveness of almost 91%. Side effects were typical and generally mild, and myocarditis, the rare side effect considered to be inflammation of the heart and probably causing the most concern, did not even occur (rates in adults are around seven per million, so 2,300 is a very small sample size).
Moderna, meanwhile, said Monday that its studies on children under the age of 12 – with two half-adult shots 28 days apart – are also showing strong results. This vaccine will not be up for discussion when the FDA meets and must go through the same path of approval that Pfizer is currently pursuing before it can be given to children.
The bottom line is that these studies have shown that vaccinations reduce the likelihood of symptomatic Covid infection and hospitalization in children relative to the number of adults – and without any significant complications.
Could vaccinating children help contain the pandemic?
However, vaccination is not just about individual benefits, although obviously these are important. On a broader level, vaccinating children could have an impact on the shape of the pandemic itself, says computer epidemiologist Maimuna Majumder.
“What makes school children – especially younger children – unique is not just the number of contacts they have on a given day, but the heterogeneity of the age groups among those contacts,” said Majumder, faculty member at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School . “They interact with their peers in school and outside of the curriculum, but they also interact with senior educators and carers and their families.”