Vaccine Work Differently On Kids Than Adults


As the summer winds down and kids start returning to school, vaccines are at the forefront of many parents’ minds. Most of the time, kids receive vaccines before starting kindergarten, they receive additional vaccines once they work their way into middle school. This year, however, vaccines could be especially important because the pediatric version of the COVID-19 vaccine could help protect kids as the school year goes on.

A lot of parents are wondering when it’ll be their kid’s turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and the short answer is “not yet” because vaccine trials work differently for kids.

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Vaccines Work Differently On Kids

Moms may hinder the CDC's plan to vaccinate younger kids.

Via Pexels

We often joke that our children are just “tiny humans” who act “just like us.” However, children’s brains and bodies are not anywhere near adult-sized during most of their childhood, and this can impact a lot of medications and vaccines.

According to a recent research study, children respond differently to vaccines than adults because they do not have fully developed immune systems. When babies are born, their immune systems still utilize the antibodies they received from their mom during pregnancy. Over time, those antibodies die out and kids must start developing their own antibodies through exposure to various illnesses. However, this immune system transition can make it harder for children to receive needed antibodies from vaccines, which is why many vaccines have different versions for children than they do for adults.

Furthermore, their physiology and size require different doses and, in some cases, a completely different combination of chemicals to prevent infection. This is because kids’ bodies respond differently to medications and chemicals since their brains and body are still developing throughout most of their childhood. So, even if adults don’t experience a fever or dizziness from a specific vaccine, that doesn’t mean kids won’t — which makes it especially difficult for doctors to test vaccines on children.

Clinical Trials on Children

A Dark Picture Of A Child In A Face Mask

via Unsplash / Jan Kopriva

As we’ve seen with the COVID-19 vaccine, the clinical trial process for pediatric vaccines can take much longer than trials for adults. According to VeryWell Family, this is mainly because kids cannot be included in the initial trials and must wait until the vaccine is proven safe and effective on adults. However, clinical trials must eventually happen on children because researchers must see how the vaccine reacts in children so they can account for any differences between kids and adults.

In many cases, trials in kids follow a trickle-down effect, meaning they start with teens, then move to school-aged children and work their way down to infants and toddlers. This allows experts to calculate the different ratios of medications needed since kids’ bodies can metabolize medicine very differently than adults.

According to Judy Martin’s write-up for The Conversation, researchers remain on high alert when testing out vaccines on children. Families usually keep strict records of any side effects or changes that occur after the trial vaccine is administered. Vaccine trial sites also check in with pediatric trial participants frequently, and trials pause whenever researchers notice something concerning.

For those wondering why we can’t just give kids the COVID-19 vaccine already or for those who are worried about kids getting the vaccine once it’s available to the general public, this is why: Trial vaccines are different for kids, and that matters for kids health.

Sources: Vaccine (Vol 33, Is 47), Verywell Family, The Conversation

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