Dr. Mannan Razzak. Photo: zocdoc.com
Epicenter: How do we know that this vaccine’s dose is safe for children?
Last week, Epicenter-NYC spoke with pediatrician Dr. Mannan Razzak from Woodland Park Pediatricians in New Jersey to learn more about the Covid-19 vaccine for children. If you weren’t able to make it to the livestream, here is a quick recap:
Epicenter: Can you tell us precisely what ages are now eligible for the vaccine and what type of vaccine they will be given?
Dr. Razzak: Last week, we got the approval for kids 5 through 11, and before that, we had the approval for kids 12 through 16 to up to 18. So right now, we can vaccinate all of our younger kids, school-age kids from 5 and up and Pfizer is the only one that has been approved in the U.S. for now.
Epicenter: How is this Pfizer vaccine for ages 5 to 11 different from the Pfizer vaccine kids 12 to 18 are getting, and the vaccine adults are getting?
Dr. Razzak: The dose is a third of the dose people 12 and up get. The adult and 12 and up dose is 30 micrograms; the 5 through 11 is 10 micrograms. With all the studies they’ve done, that dose is shown to have enough efficacy and safety profile.
Dr. Razzak: Volunteers were recruited for trials and they looked at what dose would be sufficient to provide the immune response that was needed. So once so again, they had that 30 micrograms and they worked their way down to see how low they can go with the dosing to still provide the immunogenicity that was necessary. Once they saw that the 10 micrograms were sufficient, that’s when the trial started with the 10 micrograms.
Epicenter: Can you help us picture what vaccine trials are?
Dr. Razzak: So Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, you can go on their website, you can look for clinical trials for vaccines, and anyone—your child, my daughter—can see if they’re eligible and volunteer to participate in these trials. And again, it’s not a select few. They’re looking for all cultures or races to participate and of course, all ages.
Epicenter: How do we know the groups chosen in the trials are diverse?
Dr. Razzak: It’s the population that is volunteering. So from what I’ve read, our country has 330 million people and most of the country is Caucasian. So you’re going to have a larger population of Caucasian kids in these trials. If our families are willing to participate in these trials, they actually will have to go on the company’s website and say “Is there a trial next week that my child can participate in?”
Epicenter: For children who are taking the Pfizer vaccine, what is the recommended number of doses?
Dr. Razzak: Same number as the adult dose. So first dose and then three weeks later, 21 days later, you take your second dose. Then once Moderna comes out [with vaccines for the 5 to 11 age group], it’ll most likely be the same interval. Unfortunately, you know, with J&J it’s not just one and done. Once the boosters were approved, people are highly recommended to get a second dose two months after their first dose.
Epicenter: Do you suspect that children will eventually need boosters?
Dr. Razzak: You know, at this point, no, we don’t know. Although a third dose is recommended for people who are at high risk. Some of our kids may be in there depending on what type of therapies they’re on and what their high-risk conditions are. But right now, probably not.
Epicenter: Can you get multiple vaccines at the same time? For example, can kids get their flu shot at the same time as the Covid-19 vaccine?
Dr. Razzak: They can get the flu shot along with the Covid vaccine. A couple of our patients came in for their flu shot and we told them we have the Covid vaccine, they got both together.
Epicenter: How long will it be until you think there will be a vaccine for those under 5?
Dr. Razzak: There are studies right now, they are doing trials where most likely in early spring of 2022 we’ll get results of those for six months and up to be vaccinated against Covid. So trials are already in place for that.
Epicenter: Although children are vaccinated they are still susceptible to getting the virus, but now that most restrictions have been lifted, does that worry you?
Dr. Razzak: It’s difficult to make those decisions as you know. Are we going to let [your child] go out and play with their friends when he has a younger brother at home and we don’t know the vaccine status of those other friends? Yes, though again it depends on how comfortable those families are with knowing there is that risk. Once a child is immunized, the data says there is a 90% chance they will not get Covid or have to be hospitalized with Covid. The studies have also shown that even the transmission is decreased significantly with someone who is vaccinated.
Epicenter: How long will it take for a child who has received both doses until they are completely immune?
Dr. Razzak: Two weeks. Two weeks after their second dose their body has developed enough antibodies to protect them against this virus. We are never 100% immune, and it also depends on our surroundings. So if our community is well immunized yes that provides a locally better immune response to an infection, but if our families, our communities aren’t vaccinated then most of those families are going to be more susceptible.
Epicenter: If your child is 11, should they wait until they turn 12 to get the full Pfizer vaccine dose for adults, or should you just get the one at age 11?
Dr. Razzak: Get the one at age 11. The sooner the better, we don’t need you to wait a few weeks or months—the [waiting] period is a risk so get the dose that you are eligible for at that time.
Epicenter: What are your recommendations for possible travel over winter break?
Dr. Razzak: As we said nothing is 100% as we said vaccines are 90-95% effective, so we still have to take those same [safety precautions that we are doing daily]. With traveling, yes you should be comfortable going but you should still mask up, still wash your hands so that we are not getting infected.
You can watch the livestream in its entirety here.