In October 2020, Pfizer announced that it had gotten FDA approval to include children from ages 12-15 into its COVID-19 vaccine trials in the United States, which had previously only included those 16 and over. In these trials, when comparing the 1005 adolescents who received the vaccine instead of the placebo, the vaccine demonstrated 100% effectiveness in preventing COVID-19. Now, in May 2021, the United States government has officially made COVID-19 vaccines available to children from 12 to 15 years of age. This landmark decision now paves the way towards vaccinating children of all ages, which may be a key step in the return to normalcy for many families across the country. As the CDC director, Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, explains, these vaccinations are essential for a “faster return to social activities” and for a widespread “peace of mind” as more families become protected against the virus. The director recommends a proactive stance in the matter, urging parents to seek out more information from their healthcare providers to learn more about the vaccine. After all, these children total to nearly 17 million, and by vaccinating this younger population, the United States is taking a “critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
However, for all the proponents of this move, there are some experts who have concerns about the global implications of this decision from the US government. After all, as Dr. Amesh Adalja explains, countries like India are still struggling to stock up on vaccines in order to meet the dosage requirements for their higher risk adult populations, while there is some research to demonstrate that most children afflicted with COVID-19 only experience mild illness. This ethical debate continues on whether or not utilizing vaccine resources on seemingly lower risk children should take precedence over the vaccine distribution efforts towards health care workers and older adults in vaccine-deficient countries.