KEY POINTS

  • Dr. Scott Harris said children aren't included in the recommended groups to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the moment
  • The head of the Alabama Department of Public Health said there is not enough research on how to vaccine works in kids
  • Pfizer and Moderna are expected to begin testing in children younger than 12 in early 2021

More and more people are lining up to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including health workers and people with weakened immune systems. For now, children are low on the priority list. Experts said more data is needed before children can be included in the list.

"Basically children aren’t included in the recommended groups right now because we just don’t have enough information about how the vaccine works in children," said Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, NBC15 News reported.

Research published earlier in JAMA Pediatrics suggested that children well into their teenage years could be the silent carriers of COVID-19. According to Harris, children will still be vaccinated, but they are not the priority at the moment.

"It’s true that children can spread the disease, there's no question about that. But if you protect the people who are most vulnerable, like seniors or people with chronic health problems, then even though we don’t want children spreading the disease we won’t have that pool of susceptible people out there who may do very poorly if they get infected," the doctor added.

To date, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine approved in Canada is only available for Canadians aged 16 and older. This is because they believe children are less impacted by the disease and clinical trials are prioritizing adults, according to CTV News.

Health Canada also said that it is best to proceed with caution during this time as the "safety and effectiveness in people younger than 16 years of age have not yet been established.”

Pfizer and Moderna are now moving forward with testing their coronavirus vaccines in children between the ages of 12 and 17, per NBC15 News. The vaccine manufacturers are expected to start testing in kids younger than 12 in early 2021.

"I don’t think anybody has deliberately sought to exclude children by any means. It's just that this is happening really quickly, and we just need more information," Harris noted.

It is still unclear why children are less likely to contract COVID-19 or have less severe symptoms when they get infected. But two possible reasons suggested by experts are that children have fewer SARS-CoV-2 receptors in the respiratory tract and that they may be exposed to coronaviruses associated with common colds, giving them a better defense against the virus.

A Palestinian girl waits for a bride while wearing a protective mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To contain the spread of coronavirus, the Hamas Islamist group has banned large indoor gatherings A Palestinian girl waits for a bride while wearing a protective mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To contain the spread of coronavirus, the Hamas Islamist group has banned large indoor gatherings Photo: AFP / MAHMUD HAMS