WASHINGTON - The U.S. government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Friday that he hopes children will begin to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by late spring or early summer.
"Over the next couple of months, we will be doing trials in an age de-escalation manner, so that hopefully by the time we get to the late spring, early summer we will have children being able to be vaccinated, according to the FDA’s guidance," Fauci said during a White House coronavirus briefing on Friday discussing the latest information on vaccinations.
Fauci said that scientists have already started age de-escalation testing, which involves vaccine manufacturers receiving emergency approval for the vaccine in people 16 and older, followed by children down to 12 years, and if that is successful, down to 9 years old.
Rather than doing trials involving tens of thousands of people, like the Pfizer and Moderna adult trials, clinical trials involving children will be done in smaller groups.
"What you can do is in a much smaller trial measured in hundreds to a couple of thousands to do what we call ‘safety in a Phase 2a for immunogenicity," Fauci said.
Immunogenicity refers to the ability of a substance to induce a cellular and humoral immune response.
"What you can do is then bridge that [the smaller trials] to the efficacy data that you got from the 30,000 trial of Moderna and the 44,000 trial that we did with Pfizer," Fauci explained.
Fauci said officials want to intensify the rollout and "to vaccinate as many people as we can, as quickly as we possibly can, because mutations occur, because the virus has a playing field, as it were, to mutate."
Care home staff receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at Bradley Manor residential care home in Belfast. (Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images)
Vaccines are not yet approved for children, due to insufficient testing data on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine in young people.
Fauci’s hopeful assertion on the vaccination of children came on the heels of Johnson & Johnson’s announcement Friday that in the U.S. and seven other countries, its single-shot vaccine was 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe illness.
As of Thursday, only about 1.3% of Americans have been fully vaccinated with the required two doses of the vaccine.
The Department of Defense on Thursday said it had received a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for help in administering the coronavirus vaccine across the U.S.
The U.S. is now administering about 1 million shots a day to adults, although that pace is still seen as insufficient.
On Monday, President Joe Biden said his goal was to administer 150 million doses of the COVID vaccine during his first 100 days in office.
He also said that by spring, anyone who wants to get a vaccination would be able to do so.
"I think it will be this spring. I think we’ll be able to do that this spring. But it’s going to be a logistical challenge that exceeds anything we’ve ever tried in this country," Biden said. "But I think we can do that."
According to the Associated Press, children represent about one-fourth of the population, and for the U.S. to reach "herd immunity," or widespread resistance, about 70% to 85% of the population must be vaccinated.
"Children tend to not become as severely ill as adults but they can still become ill and some have tragically died," said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency room physician, who supports Fauci's goal. "Children can also be vectors of transmission, and getting children vaccinated is important as we strive for herd immunity."
The Associated Press contributed to this story. This story was reported from Los Angeles.