Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, two of the leading front-runners in the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, have both recently announced plans to test people 18 years of age and younger. The news by both drug giants comes despite reactions in clinical trials that were serious enough to pause them.
Pfizer, on Oct. 13, received permission by the FDA to test its experimental vaccine on children as young as 12, BusinessInsider.com reported. This makes Pfizer the first American-based Covid-19 vaccine developer to use minors in phase 3 trials.
The British-based collaborative Covid-19 vaccine effort between the University Oxford and pharma company, AstraZeneca, gained approval in May from The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to experiment on kids as young as 5 years of age. Two months after receiving this approval, the Oxford-AstraZeneca trial was halted after two adult participants developed transverse myelitis, Transverse myelitis is a neurological disorder in which the spinal cord becomes inflamed. The condition, which has no cure, can lead to a weakness of the limbs and even paralysis.
More recently, an AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine participant in Brazil died, although trial organizers maintain the death was not related to an adverse reaction of the vaccine.
To date, Pfizer is in stage 2-3 of its experimental vaccine, and has administered two rounds to over 37,000 participants in six countries and 39 U.S. states.
CNBC.com reported on the adverse reactions experienced by five participants, including shivering intense enough to crack teeth.
The website for Children’s Health Defense (which often publishes articles critical of vaccine makers, which are by federal law exempt from product liability) speculates that parents may be tempted by an economic incentive of up to $2000 to enroll their children in the trials. This is especially true if parents have been left unemployed by the financial fallout of the pandemic.
“Otherwise, their motivation for wanting to throw their children into the experimental fray is unclear,” says Children’s Health Defense Team in an editorial. The editorial references a quote on CNN by the director of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s vaccine research center, Dr. Robert Frenck. Frenck on one hand states, “We really think a vaccine for adolescents and children is going to be critical for getting Covid under control.“ Yet Frenck also acknowledges that most of the time, what a coronavirus causes is a cold that does not make children “sick enough to where a parent says they need to go to a doctor.”
Children’s Health Defense (CHD) Team reports that Dr. Frenck recently started giving Pfizer’s shot to 16- and 17-year-olds, and will soon be administering them to patients as young as 12. CHD suggests that Frenck is enticing additional young participants by telling parents that the COVID-19 death rate in children is “not zero.” Yet Frenck fails to mention that according to statistics by the CDC, the survival rate in people 19 years of age and under is 99.997%.
CHD also references a study in the journal, Pediatrics, which said that children are not a source of infection and are far more likely to become infected from the novel coronavirus from adults “rather than transmitting it to them.”