Episode 149: Nancy Goodman on Covid vaccines for kids, & Greg Zuckerman on Novavax's remarkable rise
Goodman is a force. I once heard. Nih director francis collins speak about her with awe. she's championed legislation called the creating hope act to incentivize drug companies to work on pediatric rare diseases. That law led to the creation of priority review vouchers. Worth more than a billion dollars. She did all of this after losing her ten-year-old son jacob in two thousand nine to a rare form of brain cancer the next day she opened up her laptop and founded kids versus cancer. A group that pushes for medicines to be developed faster for children and she's wondering amid the fastest vaccine development program in history. Why kids are still months away from getting access to covid nineteen vaccines. Nancy goodman joins us now nancy. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much atom. I'm thrilled to be here so in discussing vaccines for kids. The argument always comes up that the disease doesn't strike them as hard or as much as it does adults so our co vaccines necessary for kids. Well that's a great question. Meg and i think that we need to talk about that much more carefully and make them more careful decision about when we're going to give kids vaccines. I think we all agree that we're eventually going to give kids vaccines and so the question is is it better to do now or as a delay really important i think it may very well be better to do right now so we heard just this week from dinner that they've fully enrolled their vaccine trial in kids age twelve to seventeen and that they plan to start another trial. Starting at the age of six months in the near term and pfizer would also has an authorized is at a similar pace in terms of pediatrics studies. So drug companies say they. I proved vaccines work in older age groups to get data on safety and then progressively move younger. What do you think of that system of testing vaccines so look. I'm not a physician or clinical trials. So i'm not going to comment on the science per se. But i want to ask a few questions first of all when pfizer and moderna or from pseudo company starts a clinical trial. Why did they have eighteen years of age as the minimum age of eligibility. So that's the first thing. I think companies usually go down to eighteen years of age. Just because it's tradition. There's so many variables in designing trial. And they just check the box for eighteen years of age. So i really want them to explain to us what the rationale was for not testing kids in the first place in the cancer world. Which i'm more familiar with what we talk about is there is a break around puberty and it is the case at sometimes pre puberty. There's a different dosage and scheduling and even potentially different toxicity profile for therapy. So maybe we do need to be more careful before puberty. But maybe we don't and let's talk about it. I think it's fantastic. That moderna has clinical trial down to six months of age or they will. I think that's really important. I hope that the trial is big enough that we're really going to get some important information. My understanding is pfizer doesn't have a trial. That's big enough to be sufficiently power to give us the information we need yet. You know i think when. We talk about Delaying clinical trials for kids or withholding. Do we really need a clinical trial for kids. Twelve to seventeen. Do we really need that. Extra information at and i just love vaccine. Clinical trial design experts to explain to us why we really needed. If some of those kids are as tall and heavy as adults taller and heavier than small women for example or even men. Because you know it is the case that three hundred kids of almost three hundred kids have died in the us. So far of covid and over two thousand kids have multi system inflammatory syndrome. And they're just sick sick kids and twelve school buses full of kids of died and as we delay. Vaccinations were saying that. They're going to be more kids who we know will die because they weren't vaccinated right and we know that they'll be thousands of kids who have multi inflammatory syndrome. Who will be really really sick. And they wouldn't have been if they got an early vaccination. So that's that's you know that's the harm that we're agreeing to experience so that we delay these vaccinations so one of the reasons that you created this voucher system is because you wanted to incentivize the drug companies to develop cancer drugs for kids cancer in kids as much rarer than it is in adults inchoate vaccines however they're designed to be given as you know given to as many people as possible. Twenty two percent of the population is under eighteen. So what do you think is happening here. You know look. We were all in a crisis as a nation in twenty twenty companies just put together whatever clinical trials they could. It's incredible that they got results so quickly that adults are able to be vaccinated but again. I think what's happening now is. They're not thinking about how to get information for kids as fast as possible. So there's been an increasing movement of vaccine hesitancy in pediatric vaccine even before cogan and the pandemic has led to sort of a different flavor of this a group of people worried the vaccines have been developed. Too fast for example. What do you think is the best way to address those concerns you know. I think that's such a great question. Meg and i just don't from a personal perspective. It's just not how i would. I would approach these issues. I'm a very careful in what i eat. I eat organic and plant. Based but as soon as i can get a vaccination. I'm going to be there right. So i'm clearly in the vaccination camp a couple years ago. My organization worked with the state of new york. There used to be an opportunity for for families to Not vaccinate their kids for certain. Vaccinations based on religious rationale and so new york has ended that exemption and people felt really really scared of vaccinations. And i think that that was the problem. I think we need to have a discussion. We need have more discussions with people who are really really scared and understand why they're scared and really see if we can find ways to assure them that it is really safer to vaccinate your kid or yourself than to go unvaccinated. We've spoken so many times over the years going back to two thousand fourteen And one thing you said to me at that. Time was your struck by the sort of approach of the the drug industry are the medical complex that we don't test drugs in kids because we want to protect them from the medicines were while the mindset should be were protecting them with medicines I i know you have more work. Going on in this area trying to incentivize drug companies to be testing simultaneously. Their drugs in kids. We just tell us more about bob. Sure well traditionally as you said we have a sort of paternalistic approach both in pharmaceutical and biotech industry and in our society at large where we say. Well let's test on adults first and then if we get you know if it's effective and if the taxes are acceptable then we'll try and kids but as you said the question is like know howard kids suffering while they aren't until they get this therapy and while they're waiting for adult clinical trials and in the cancer world.