Preliminary doses of the coronavirus vaccine may not be given to people under the age of 18, Illinois' top doctor said Friday.
"I will put the caveat that at this point, we know that this vaccine might be for 18 and over until we hear otherwise," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "So there are still many moving parts to the plan."
Her comments echo those made by Dr. Jose Romero, the chair of the CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices. Romero said Friday he hopes to see trials testing COVID-19 vaccines in young children beginning in the second quarter of 2021. If the vaccines prove to be safe and effective, children under the age of 18 could get their shots in the second half of next year, he said.
"I don't think we're going to see it in the first half of this coming year," he said during an interview on MSNBC, adding that kids could still get a vaccine before the fall semester. "We need to see how the studies progress. We need to see that data in order to make sure that it is safe and effective in children."
A vaccine cannot be distributed to children until it's been rigorously tested in children in clinical trials.
Pfizer, which submitted an emergency use application to the Food and Drug Administration for its coronavirus vaccine on Nov. 20, is already testing kids 12 and older.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Monday that the company expects to test its vaccine on children between the ages of 11 and 17 later this year, but he added that testing on children under the age of 11 won't begin until sometime next year.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Pritzker Gives ‘Detailed Update' on Illinois' Vaccine Distribution Plan http://nbcchi.com/IgEH6cc that the state will only distribute a vaccine once one is deemed safe to do so.
"In addition to the thorough review at the FDA, Illinois is one of many states that have established additional review panels – including Indiana, California, New York, West Virginia and Michigan," Pritzker said. "There is an all-hands-on-deck effort to ensure the most thorough evaluation possible. But all signs to date are astoundingly promising. Never before have we had early vaccine studies of this scale that have demonstrated such high levels of protection."
The CDC has voted to include healthcare workers who care for COVID-19 patients and those working in nursing homes in the very first group that will receive the vaccine when it becomes publicly available.
"This is Phase 1a of vaccine distribution," Pritzker said. "The goal here is to fortify the healthcare workforce by removing these most exposed workers from the cycle of quarantine, illness and infection, as well as protecting our most vulnerable resident."
In Illinois, there are 655,000 people who qualify as “frontline healthcare workers," with 162,000 in Chicago and 493,000 outside of Chicago.
There are also roughly 110,000 adults statewide who live in congregate settings, like long-term care facilities or assisted living residences. Of those, approximately 16,000 live in Chicago.
According to Pritzker, the federal government plans to deliver a separate, direct supply of the vaccine to the nation’s largest cities, including Chicago.
Should Pfizer's vaccine receive federal approval next week, Illinois is expected to receive 109,000 doses, 23,000 of which would go to Chicago.
"There will be shipments of more and more vaccine each week following that first shipment’s arrival," Pritzker said. "So although the numbers now may seem small relative to our population, those numbers will increase over the subsequent weeks and months."
Still, Pritzker said distributing enough vaccine to cover the prioritized groups will take "more than just a few weeks."