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Vaccinating Children Seen As A Key Step Toward COVID-19 Herd Immunity

The U.S. has administered more than 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but the vast majority of those jabs are going to adults. Moderna announced Tuesday that it has begun enrolling children from 6 months to less than 12 years old into a trial of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Having the young vaccinated would bring the country "another step closer to actually achieving herd immunity and protecting everybody," says Dr. Steve Plimpton, an OB-GYN in Arizona who is the principal investigator for the Moderna children's trial in Phoenix.

Pfizer's vaccine currently is authorized for people as young as 16, and the company is testing its vaccine on 12- to 15-years-olds. The vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson currently are for people 18 and up.

In an interview with Morning Edition, Plimpton says parents have been eager to sign up their children for the Moderna trials, which will include 6,750 children in the U.S. and Canada.

"The response from the parents has been overwhelming," he says. "They're calling literally all day long, asking for when they can get their kids vaccinated."

Parents are "looking for protection for their kids. Especially here in Arizona, the kids are going back to school by governor mandate. And now we're going to have more exposure issues for these kids," Plimpton says. "But indirectly, they're also going to be protecting themselves and those around the kids that might be infected if the kids actually get infected."

He adds, "We're going to head more towards a community immunity and then obviously on to herd immunity by taking this population out of the potential transmission of COVID-19."

The study is scheduled to last about 14 months, but Plimpton says he doesn't expect it to take that long. "We already have 300 parents here in Phoenix that want to get their children injected. So to achieve the 6,750 patients we want for statistical significance in order to get the data to go to the FDA, it'll probably be less than that amount of time," he said.

So, if young children can be vaccinated, will it mean a return to playdates?

"We're all starved for any social interaction for our kids, if not for ourselves. So this is a step getting back to our normal life," Plimpton says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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