‘Possibility’ Moderna vaccine could be approved for children in 2021, Health Canada says

Health Canada’s chief medical adviser said Wednesday it was “within the realm of possibility” that Moderna’s novel coronavirus vaccine could be approved for children by 2021.

Dr. Supriya Sharma’s announcement came shortly after the federal government authorized the Moderna vaccine for use among Canadians aged 18 and older.

“It’s not unusual that first trials for any vaccines, or any medications for that matter, are actually done in adults,” she said.

According to Sharma, recruitment for trials for children aged 12 to 17 are already underway.

“The plan is to recruit approximately 3,000 participants in that clinical trial, and that’s already started,” she said.

Read more: Moderna vaccine approved: What we know about side effects, ingredients and doses

Pfizer-BioNtech is also planning to study the effects of its vaccine on children as young as five years old, which Sharma said will likely begin in the spring.

“Because we already have some data in adults, we don’t have to redo the huge Phase III trials with tens of thousands of individuals in those trials — we can use some of the data that we already have,” she explained.

“But it’s really, really important that we do have information for use in children before we would have any authorization or recommendations that may be used in the younger population.”

By the end of December, Canada will have access to up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

Colin Furness, an epidemiologist teaching at the University of Toronto, said testing a vaccine out on adults first is common procedure.

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Coronavirus: Moderna’s vaccine approval ‘critical’ for equitable access, Health Canada officials say

“You don’t test on children right away, and this is true for a lot of medications,” he said.

“I wouldn’t expect any of the new vaccines to … have been tested on kids.”

Children are considered a vulnerable population, and Furness said it’s important to ensure the safety of a vaccine before subjecting kids to it.

Testing on children was more time-consuming and therefore more expensive, he explained, adding that ethics review boards are also “very cautious about enrolling vulnerable populations into these sorts of trials.”

Next, Furness said vaccine developers will be monitoring the reaction to their vaccines closely as doses roll out around the world, engaging in a so-called phase four.

“Once you’ve established safety in phase four, then you can circle back and say, ‘OK, now it’s time to start on kids,’” he said.

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