This Is Who Could Be Last to Get the Coronavirus Vaccine, Doctors Say

Keeping everyone safe might mean that one group will have to wait for their immunity, according to experts.

The scramble to develop and distribute a vaccine for COVID-19 has been at the forefront of medical experts' and public officials' minds since the earliest days of the pandemic. Luckily, intense research and unprecedented sharing of information between scientists has sped up the process. As a result, National Institute of Allergy and Disease Director Anthony Fauci, MD, is confident a vaccine could be developed by the very end of the year. But even when a vaccine is released, short supplies will likely dictate who will get priority—and now, doctors are saying children are likely to be the last to actually receive the vaccine.

Despite many parents looking forward to inoculating their kids before sending them off to school in the fall, experts report that children are being excluded from most early studies, which means they may not be able to be a part of the first rounds of vaccination. "To date, my sense is that children are not part of these initial studies," Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABC News. "It would be unfathomable giving children a vaccine that has not been adequately tested in children."

So how long will children have to wait? Paul Duprex, PhD, director of the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, told ABC News the process for testing a COVID-19 vaccine in kids could take "extra months and maybe years longer."

Another factor is the groups who are at the greatest risk of falling seriously ill or dying from the coronavirus—namely, the elderly, front line healthcare workers, and anyone with existing complications that make them more susceptible. Based on current figures, children don't seem to contract the virus as much as adults do. "About 2 percent of the cases reported are in the pediatric population," David Kimberlin, MD, professor and co-director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, told ABC News.

Medical experts also hope that eventually, widespread vaccination of adults could also provide herd immunity, which is when enough people are vaccinated to snuff out an ongoing chain of infections. That would protect children without the need for a vaccine. "Usually it's the other way around—vaccinating children protects older adults," Kimberlin said. But in the case of the novel coronavirus, the discovery and distribution of a vaccine that makes most adults immune to the virus "could still very legitimately [be seen] as a win for children because it's a win for society." And for more information on your young ones and coronavirus, check out 7 New Symptoms the CDC Says You Need to Look Out for in Your Kids.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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