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At a Senate health committee hearing to examine public health issues related to vaccines, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., wanted to know what steps the federal government is taking to ensure that a possible COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children.

Enzi pointed out that there are unique challenges in pediatric vaccine research because of the safety and ethical concerns about enrolling kids in trials. He also noted there can be differences in how their maturing immune systems work compared to adults. He asked Surgeon General of the U.S. Vice Admiral Jerome Adams about the process to develop a COVID-19 vaccine for children.  

“The initial vaccine trials will be on people 18 and up, and this is the way we’ve done it for other vaccines that have been developed in the past,” Adams said. “We will make sure it is safe and effective in adults and then we will slowly start to move down in age. The next round, I anticipate, will be ages 12 to 18 and then after that, if it continues to be safe and effective, we will test in people younger than that. That’s the way we’ve done it for every vaccine because we can’t just assume that something that is safe and effective in an adult will be safe and effective in a child.”

Adams added that it is critical to ensure vaccine confidence and that all adults who can get a vaccine do get a vaccine. He said because the initial round of vaccinations will not be available for children, it will be crucial to have a higher percentage of adults getting vaccinated to get closer to the level of herd immunity needed to break transmission of disease.

Adams said more than 4 million children are currently behind on childhood vaccinations and stressed the importance of preventing the diseases we can prevent right now. He urged every child to get a flu vaccine this year.