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INDIANAPOLIS – A local pharmacist is weighing in about when Americans could see a coronavirus vaccine for children.

Dr. Veronica Vernon works at the Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

“Typically, to get a vaccine approved, it takes years. It used to take a decade or more to bring a vaccine to market, depending on the type of vaccine that was created but what we’re seeing now – especially with this SARS-CoV-2 virus is an acceleration in the process. We’re seeing a lot more funding going into into this. We’re seeing unprecedented work between governments and pharmaceutical companies working together on these vaccines. There is just a higher priority that we have never seen before with vaccine development,” Vernon explained.

Vernon talked about the process an adult-oriented vaccine has to go through.

First, it has pass pre-clinical testing. That is done in tissues, cells and within a laboratory. Pharmaceutical companies also test the drugs on animals.

“Then, we’re going into human trials, which is what we call our phase one through phase three trials,” she said.

Phase one and phase two trials are typically done with a smaller group of patients. In phase one, companies test the vaccine on 15-20 adults, sometimes 100. Phase two’s pool gets a bit larger.

“Phase three are our largest trials,” she said. “Those are thousands of patients that are getting the vaccine.”

As of October, there were 46 vaccine candidates working to get a drug to market. Each of them had immunizations somewhere in those phases. Vernon said it’s possible a vaccine could be released in late 2020, but it would first go to front-line workers and those who are high risk.

“For the general public, we’ll see a vaccine likely in 2021. Maybe late spring, early summer,” Vernon said.

Each state was supposed to come up with a coronavirus vaccine distribution plan. That was due to the federal government by Oct. 23. The state unveiled its plan earlier this week.

When asked when the American public could see a coronavirus vaccine for children, Vernon said it is something she, too, has been keeping track of.

“As a pharmacist and as a mom, that’s a question I’m asking myself! I have been talking with a lot of pediatrician colleagues about it. We are not likely to see have a vaccine right away for children.”

Vernon said the process to get such a vaccine to market is similar to how pharmaceutical companies do it for adults.

“But children are not just small adults,” she explained. “We can’t just extrapolate the results we use from our adult trials to children.”

Vernon confirmed that companies have yet to test any vaccines on children. The youngest patient to try an immunization has been 16 years old. She was part of Pfizer’s trials, after the company asked to test teens and preteens as young as 12. The FDA approved.

“My educated guess is that we’ll wait until we get a vaccine approved and then, starting probably early 2021, there might be some trials for children,” Vernon predicted. “My guess is that it will probably be late 2021 before we see a vaccine approved for children.”