Moderna Vaccine Approval for Teens Key to Reaching Herd Immunity: Doctor

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Another vaccine could soon be available to children 12 to 17 years old after Moderna announced its vaccine is safe and effective for the age group.

Currently, Pfizer's vaccine is the only one available to them, so proponents of vaccines for teens say the announcement is good news.

"I think this is excellent news,” said Doctor Stephen Spector, a Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases at UCSD. He is also the director of the Mother-Child-Adolescent Program, which has been doing vaccines for respiratory infections in children for many years. The program most recently conducted the adult study for the Moderna vaccine here in San Diego. “I think it will give another opportunity for teenagers to be immunized, it will increase the vaccine availability to this group.”

Spector said the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are very similar with similar outcomes.  Considering the potential issues with manufacturing and/or distribution, he said it is always good to have more than one vaccine available.

“When you're talking about this age group, 20 million youths, and you want to have enough vaccine available, that means you need 40 million doses,” he said, adding that efficacy is not the issue, the issue is getting people vaccinated. “I think given this pandemic you want to have as much of the vaccine as possible.”

Spector is part of an ongoing study with UCSD and Rady Children’s Hospital looking at the Moderna vaccine in 6-month-olds up to 12-year-olds. “The incident of serious disease is low in that population, but again, they can spread SARS COVID to their parents and grandparents.”

Plus, Spector said, we don't know how long the efficacy of the vaccines will last. What we want and need, he says, is to immunize as much of the population as possible, “so we cut down on the circulation of the virus, so we are not exposing people whose immunity may be waning after 12, 18, 24 months."

Do young children still need to be vaccinated if we reach herd immunity?

“We really need to immunize a minimum of 70% to 80% of our population, and when you think that there are 60 million children who are less than 18 years old of age in the United States, we're never going to get 70% or 80% unless we’re immunizing children as well as adults,” Spector said.

Moderna said it plans to submit its trial results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in early June, along with a request for authorization to use the vaccine in adolescents.

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