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When could children start getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

More than 29,000 children have been infected with the virus in the Houston region and Texas Children's Hospital reported a large increase in the last month.

HOUSTON — As Houstonians start getting vaccinated, there's still a lot of uncertainty about if and when children could receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

During the national winter surge, more children are getting sick. Dr. Lara Shekerdemian is Chief of Critical Care at Texas Children's Hospital. She sees COVID's impact on kids up close.

"Over the last month, we have seen large numbers in our own institution," Shekerdemian said. "There's been no day in the last eight or nine months that we haven't had children with COVID in our care. They can become very sick."

The latest numbers show 1.6 million children have caught COVID-19. More than 29,000 kids and teens in the Houston area alone have had the virus.

"We have to launch a new set of clinical trials for kids," vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez said.

Hotez said young children haven't been a part of any early trials. Pfizer only recently started including kids as young as 12 in their trials. Hotez said it's critical to get that data before vaccinating children.

"If we want to reach the 60 to 80 percent coverage needed to halt transmission of the virus, that means eventually we're going to have to vaccinate adolescents and kids," Hotez said.

As researchers turn their focus to children, Hotez says a COVID-19 vaccine developed out of Texas Children's Hospital could be one of the most promising options for children.

"We're exploring whether our Texas Children's Baylor vaccine could find entry into the U.S. as a pediatric vaccine," Hotez said.

Generally, children don't experience severe complications from COVID-19. Nonetheless, doctors hope vaccinations could start before the beginning of the fall semester.

"We can't cut corners," Shekerdemian said. "We can't compromise safety, especially in young children and high-risk children. So, yes, that's everyone's hope and dream, and there's nothing to suggest it's not a possibility."

While children wait, Shekerdemian said the best thing parents can do to protect their children is have them wear and a mask and socially distance. And remember, just because they may not get as sick as adults, it doesn't mean they can't spread it.