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Children, COVID-19 and vaccines: Where things stand

More than 1.6 million U.S. children have tested positive for COVID-19 and 162 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Cook Children's hospital says 492 children tested positive for COVID-19 last week. That's the largest number of patients they've seen test positive since the pandemic began.  

As of Tuesday, the hospital says it has 17 patients hospitalized with coronavirus. 

A lot of parents are asking if and when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to children and whether the research shows that's it's safe for minors.  

Across America, more than 1.6 million children have tested positive for COVID-19. So far, 162 of the more than 300,000 U.S. deaths were children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"It's not a lot when you think of 300,000, but every child is... a child," said Dr. Rashmi Jain, telemedicine pediatrician and founder of BabiesMD.com. 

Jain said half of the children hospitalized have underlying health issues like asthma or Type 1 diabetes. For the rest, she's most concerned with how the virus will impact their long-term health.  

"Are they going to end up with long term consequences of inflammation in their heart? Their lungs? Their nerve tissues," asked Jain. 

Questions that doctors won't have answers to until research catches up. 

Even as questions remain about the disease's impact on children, they still can't get this vaccine. And there's no timeline for when that might happen. 

"[For] new medications and vaccines, especially, we first test them for safety in healthy adult populations," said Jain, explaining the clinical trial research process. 

Once large groups of healthy adults are tested, clinical trials dip into younger age groups, such as adolescents then small children. 

"This is an important group to extend the vaccine to so we can get extended coverage to... get back to normal," said Dr. Greg Fuller, principle researcher at Ventavia Research Group in Fort Worth, Texas. 

In September, Ventavia started enrolling local residents ages 16 and up for the country's first vaccine trials in young people. 

"That's just how the study has been designed by Pfizer, who we're participating with," Fuller said.  

One month later, Pfizer extended its research to include kids as young as age 12. 

This group is being studied now to determine how the vaccine responds in their bodies and at what doses. 

The FDA authorized people 16 and older eligible to get Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, under the Emergency Use Authorization [EUA]. 

Moderna is now looking to enroll children as young as 12 in its clinical trials.

So, how can you protect your kids in the meantime? 

Jain highlighted the importance of hand washing, mask wearing and encouraged participation in sports and activities that make it easy to physically distance. 

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