Where children fit into the COVID-19 vaccine trials

The race continues to release a COVID-19 vaccine, but most of the trials happening right now are focused on adults. But, kids can be infected too, so why aren’t more children being included in the research?

“We well recognize that during this pandemic that most of the problems are in adults and that children are not resistant, but they are more resilient. The children can still get infected and still get very sick but thankfully not nearly in the numbers that we see in adults," said Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist from Cleveland Clinic Children's.

He says it’s not uncommon for drug trials to focus on adults first because more layers of protection are required for kids, which can be time-consuming.

Another reason is that children are still growing, so trials have to be separated by several age groups, and that means more participants are needed. However, with adults, they can categorize them more easily.

Lastly, he says it’s harder to enroll children in research studies. You can enroll many adults fairly quickly into a vaccine trial, but it takes much longer to get enough children - and time is of the essence when it comes to developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Children’s immune systems are growing up just like they are, so there is a big difference between a 2 year old, a 20 year old, and a 92 year old in their immune system. So, you can’t say all children are the same. You actually have to test specific age groups of children.”

Dr. Esper says we won’t be able to fully control the pandemic until there’s a vaccine for all ages.

Right now, adults are the priority but he’s confident studies involving children are on the way.