From baby powder to baby vaccine: Johnson & Johnson announced on Sunday that it plans to test its coronavirus vaccine on infants and even newborns. U.S. regulators gave the health-care giant’s vaccine the green light on Saturday, saying it is safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19 in people 18 and older. The company began shipping out 4 million single-dose jabs on Monday morning, which should be delivered across the country within the next 48 hours. Johnson & Johnson has pledged to have 20 million doses available by the end of March and 100 million doses by summer. It is now the third such inoculation available in the U.S., joining those by Moderna and Pfizer.
Though all three pharmaceutical companies have started COVID-19 vaccine trials on children, it will be a while before the vaccines are authorized for the youngest Americans. Vaccinating young people will be necessary to approach herd immunity and significantly slow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday’s Meet the Press. While they typically have fewer symptoms than adults with COVID-19, children can still spread the disease.
But the country’s leading epidemiologist predicts elementary-school-age children won’t likely be able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations until this fall or early next year. “If you project realistically when we will be able to get enough data to be able to say that elementary-school children will be able to be vaccinated, I would think that would be, at the earliest, the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022,” Fauci said.
The initial clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines didn’t include children, which is standard practice; now, trials for younger children are happening in descending order of age, calibrating the best dosage for each cohort.
It’s still not clear what that means for the upcoming school year. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a road map for opening schools during the epidemic, stressing the need for masking, hand hygiene, social distancing, and monitoring levels of spread in the community. It did not state that children and school staff need to be vaccinated to return.