A COVID-19 vaccine for small children is months off, but one Utah mom is eager to get her boys the shots

Moderna says its vaccine is 100% effective for kids 12-17; clinical trials for younger kids are still in the works.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Angela Keddington, a nurse in West Valley City is anxious to get her children Chaz, 10, and Tate, 6, vaccinated with both passing the pre-screening so far for the next round of COVID-19 vaccine trials for the Pfizer version, Friday, May 21, 2021.

Angela Keddington wants her little boys — Chaz, 10, and Tate, 6 — vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

“In my mind, they’re low risk, but they’re not no-risk,” said Keddington, a nurse who lives in West Valley City.

While the Pfizer version of the vaccine has been approved for adolescents as young as 12 — and the Moderna version could get the same approval within a month — children under 12 may not be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine until fall at the earliest.

So Keddington is enrolling her boys in a clinical trial to test the Pfizer version on younger children.

“We passed the pre-screening,” Keddington said. As of Tuesday, she said, she was waiting by the phone to hear back from the lab performing the trial about when it will start.

In March, Pfizer started recruiting parents of potential subjects for clinical trials to test its vaccine on children under 12. That recruiting is still underway.

Pfizer aims to have data from those trials, covering kids as young as 2 years old, ready to submit to the FDA and CDC by September, said Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO, in an earnings call on May 4. Data for infants, 6 months to 2 years old, are expected before the end of the year, Bourla told investors at the time.

Moderna announced Tuesday that its data shows its vaccine to be 100% effective for children 12 through 17, based on clinical trials of 3,700 participants. The company said it expects to submit its data for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by early June.

Moderna also is recruiting parents to sign up younger children, from 6 months to 11 years old, in trials, the company announced in March. Officials at Moderna have not said when they expect to have data ready to present to federal agencies.

Johnson & Johnson announced in April it would expand its trials to test its single-shot vaccine on adolescents, ages 12 to 17. Johnson & Johnson has been running behind Pfizer and Moderna in its timetable, and was delayed further in April when the FDA and CDC ordered a pause in distributing the vaccine to adults, because of a rare side effect that produced blood clots in some women who received the vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is now being distributed again.

School-age kids, between 6 and 11, are the next important group to become eligible for the vaccine, said Dr. Andrew Pavia, director of epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and chief of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Utah Health.

“They’re the ones who are in school,” Pavia told reporters earlier this month. “They’re mixing a lot, and we’d like to get them back in school if they haven’t been in school, get them out of their masks, if possible — if we can get everyone vaccinated.”

Keddington, who works from home overseeing telehealth services for a California hospital system, said that there’s a 75% chance her boys will get the Pfizer vaccine in the clinical trial, and a 25% chance they’ll get the placebo.

The trials come in two forms. In one, all participants get the vaccine at varying doses, to see how much vaccine smaller bodies need to fend off the virus. The other is the traditional double-blind test, where some participants get the vaccine and some get a placebo, so researchers can measure the drug’s effectiveness.

Keddington took part in clinical trials for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, along with her husband, Josh, and their adult daughters — K’Lynn, 22, and Kandace, 18. K’Lynn’s husband, Shay, was in that trial, too, Keddington said.

But she’s not brand-loyal when it comes to getting the vaccine for her young sons. “I was willing to get them into anything I could put them into,” she said.

The boys have been attending school virtually this year, which is good for educational continuity but not for their social well-being. “I can see the sadness in, especially, Tate’s eyes,” Keddington said. “He’s a pretty young kid, trying to figure everything out.”

Keddington said she and the other adults in her family decided for themselves to enter the clinical trial, and “it does feel real strange to make that decision for your kid. You have to act in the best interest for your child.”

She said she has explained to her boys that “they would be helping science move forward, and [helping] others to be able to be vaccinated.”

Chaz has been watching videos on an educational website to learn about vaccines, Keddington said. For Tate, she said, the lessons are closer to home — like the fact that he’s been able to see his vaccinated grandparents in person, and that the family is planning a trip to Hawaii next January.

Chaz, she said, “definitely understands, in a 10-year-old brain, the logistics of why a vaccine works. Tate just knows that he gets to go to Hawaii when he’s vaccinated.”

Keddington’s advice to other parents of young children: “People need to know to have faith in the science, and to not be worried, and to know that everyone’s risk of COVID … is so much more unknown, and so much higher, than [the risk of] being vaccinated.”