Demand grows for COVID vaccine approval for kids under 12 as school begins

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When we first met Zina Good and her kids earlier this year, they were among the first under five to get a COVID vaccination as part of a clinical trial at Stanford. Since that time, she says friends with school age kids have wanted to know more.

"Our friends often ask, how did it go, are your kids okay? Yeah our kids are great, we feel so lucky," says Good.

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But for many families with vaccinated or unvaccinated kids, returning to school is filled with unanswered questions about safety, risk, and what's ahead with the Delta variant. Stanford infectious disease expert Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, M.D. believes the current precautions are key.

"Going back to school for children wearing masks and distancing, up to three feet inside, is going to be very safe. We know that outbreaks don't happen in schools when they follow those guidelines," she points out.

Still, among the unanswered questions is the availability of a COVID vaccine for children under 12. Pfizer has announced that it plans to present safety data from clinical trials next month, with Moderna saying it also plans to submit data this fall. That's left some health experts expecting a likely vaccine for 5-11 years olds around the end of the year, with under five coming later. But, that's if all goes smoothly. The FDA has signaled that it wants to follow a larger pool of participants for an extended period of time, to spot any side effects.

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"We still have lots and lots of people who want to participate in the trial so I don't think that's going to be an issue, it's just a matter of timing, says Dr. Maldonado.

But pressure for a pediatric vaccine approval is increasing. Not just with the Delta variant, but the rising toll it's taking on younger patients. And the concern that's creating for many parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics is already pointing to the some of the largest week to week percentage increases in pediatric COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic involving tens of thousands of new cases.

Dr. Maldonado, says she's also anxious for the FDA to approve a pediatric vaccine, but in the meantime she believes the risk to students is still manageable in a properly controlled environment.

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"The reality is that the children are going to get infected primarily at home, and in social events outside of school," she says.

For Zina Good and her family, that's meant supporting friends and other families, still waiting for the same opportunity they've had, to receive a pediatric vaccine.

"We are still trying to follow all CDC guidelines so we keep them not worried, and we try to support our friends as much as we can," says Good.

This month Johnson & Johnson announced that it's also begun taking steps towards a pediatric trial for its vaccine, that could start in the fall.

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