Editor’s note: For more coverage of the 2020 AAP Virtual National Conference & Exhibition, visit http://bit.ly/AAPNationalConference2020.
Once there are enough safety and efficacy data on new COVID-19 vaccines, trials in children can get underway, one of the nation’s top doctors said Saturday.
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key figure in the response to the pandemic, discussed vaccines for children during his keynote address at the 2020 AAP Virtual National Conference & Exhibition.
“You have to strike a balance of making sure you get a vaccine — if it’s safe and effective — to children in a timely manner while you’re also very attentive to the extra potential risk you’d see in a child given the vulnerability of children,” he said.
He added the AAP will play a key role in consulting on pediatric vaccine trials. The comments came just days after AAP President Sara “Sally” H. Goza, M.D., FAAP, sent a letter to federal officials stressing the importance of including children in trials and principles that should be followed.
Five vaccines supported by the U.S. are in phase 3 clinical trials, according to Dr. Fauci, and he expects to have safety and efficacy data by the end of the year. Doses are being produced in anticipation of positive results, and it may be possible to start vaccinating some people before the end of the year, he said.
Dr. Fauci’s talk also reviewed SARS-CoV-2 symptoms, risk factors, routes of transmission, case count trajectories and therapeutics. He touted the recent announcement that health officials will be distributing 150 million rapid antigen tests to nursing homes, schools and other institutions.
But his outlook wasn’t entirely optimistic. He noted there have been more than 33 million cases and 1 million deaths worldwide, “with the end really nowhere in sight.” In the U.S., case counts have topped 7 million and more than 204,000 people have died.
Children make up about 10.5% of all reported U.S. cases, according to data he cited from the AAP and Children’s Hospital Association. Roughly 1.7% of children with COVID-19 are hospitalized and 0.02% have died, significantly lower rates than for adults.
“Despite the fact that the disease burden of morbidity and mortality in children is less, we should not take it less seriously because we still don’t know all of the implications of what the long-range effects of this is going to be,” Dr. Fauci said.
Answering questions from Dr. Goza, Dr. Fauci discussed whether there was anything the U.S. could have done differently in responding to the pandemic.
“We could have known about it sooner, we could have had tests that were in abundance early on and we could have had the country act in a uniform way to the public health messages we put out,” he said, adding that in hindsight, there always are things that could have been done better in such a challenging situation.
Dr. Goza said she is grateful for the work Dr. Fauci is doing for the country and public health.
“As pediatricians, we know that if anything is going to get us through the pandemic it will be science and you,” she said. “… We’re here to help you in any way we can.”