Moderna Says Covid-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective for Kids 6 to 11

The trial of nearly 5,000 children showed a strong immune response from two low-dose shots

An elementary school aged girl wearing a face mask gets a vaccine
Kids given two low-dose versions of the Moderna vaccine a month apart showed antibody levels 1.5 times higher than those seen in young adults.  andreswd via Getty Images

Yesterday pharmaceutical company Moderna announced that their Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective for kids 6 to 11. Early trial data shows that children given two low-dose versions of the vaccine 28 days apart had a robust immune response with minimal side effects. 

In Moderna’s study, kids were given two shots of a 50 microgram dose, which is half of the dose authorized for adults. A month after being fully vaccinated, the children in the trial had antibody levels that were 1.5 times higher than those seen in young adults, according to Apoorva Mandavilli for the New York Times. Before the vaccine can be authorized for young kids, regulators must review the company’s data, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed or published.

More than 4,700 children ages 6 to 11 took part in the study, which was conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. Some children in the study felt mild or moderate side effects from the vaccine, like fatigue, fever, headache, or pain at the injection site. An independent committee will continue to review the vaccine’s safety and monitor trial participants for a year after their second dose to see how the inoculation holds up.

“We look forward to filing with regulators globally and remain committed to doing our part to help end the Covid-19 pandemic with a vaccine for adults and children of all ages,” said Moderna's chief executive officer Stéphane Bancel, in a statement.

Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccine is currently only authorized for individuals 18 years and older. In June of this year, the company submitted study results for their vaccine trial in teens 12 to 17, but the Food and Drug Administration has yet to make a decision on whether to expand the use of the Moderna vaccine to that age group, reports Yasemin Saplakoglu for Live Science. Pfizer’s vaccine has been authorized for kids ages 12 and up since May, and a panel of outside advisers to the FDA will meet today to decide whether to expand Pfizer’s vaccine use to include children aged 5 to 11 years.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been linked to rare cases of a type of heart information called myocarditis in young men. Some studies have suggested the rate of incidence in recipients of the Moderna vaccine may be higher than in Pfizer recipients, which may be because Moderna’s vaccine contains a higher dose of mRNA, according to Reuters’ Manas Mishra. Moderna is now recruiting children aged two through five, and six months to under two years for trials of their vaccine at an even lower dose.

Though children rarely become severely ill or die from Covid-19, some develop rare and lasting complications from the virus. Children can contract and spread the virus, which gives it more opportunities to mutate. Covid-19 cases in unvaccinated American children have risen since the highly contagious Delta variant became the dominant viral strain in the country earlier this year.