Biotechnology / Why aren't kids getting vaccinated?

Why aren't kids getting vaccinated?

www.technologyreview.com
4 min read
fairly difficult
They are at lower risk of serious illness from covid-19, and there are ethical issues around vaccine trials in children—but the delay may lead to problems.
Even a year into the pandemic, it's not yet entirely clear why this is the case. Research points to a different immune response to viral exposure in children, which may signify that their immune systems are able to neutralize the virus much faster and therefore stop it from replicating. Children may also benefit from cross-protection by antibodies to other circulating coronaviruses that they are more regularly exposed to.

And there's also the possibility that children have fewer ACE2 receptors in the cells that line nasal passages, which are the doorways the SARS-CoV-2 viruses uses to gain entry to host cells and infect them. That would make it less likely for the virus to get a foot in the door. There is a more serious complication of SARS-CoV-2 exposure that can occur in children, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. However it is rare, with fewer than 1,700 cases and just 26 deaths reported across the US.

Children's apparent resilience to covid-19 makes them a lower priority for vaccination, especially when demand for vaccines far outstrips supply.

Children also are a challenge in vaccine development—and in any kind of drug development—because they are considered a vulnerable population, says Beth Thielen, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota. "We want to take extra safeguards to protect them from injury," she says. "We tend to just be a lot more cautious about enrolling children in studies and not exposing them to undue risk."

The prospect of the potential harm from trialing a new vaccine or drug in children outweighing the benefits is of particular concern when it comes to MIS-C, says Anna Sick-Samuels, a…
Bianca Nogrady
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