Pharmaceutical giant Moderna Inc. has began testing its COVID-19 vaccine on children aged 6 months to 11 years in North America to broaden its vaccination campaign.
Moderna is conducting the experimental trial on 6,750 healthy children in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health and Human Services.
“This pediatric study will help us assess the potential safety and immunogenicity of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate in this important younger age population,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said.
Dr. David Wohl, medical director of the vaccine clinic at the University of North Carolina, who is not involved the study, added: “There’s a huge demand to find out about vaccinating kids and what it does.”
One mother, Rachel Guthrie, told Good Morning America that enrolling her two children for the study is “very important because we are exposed to people who might be immunocompromised or who haven’t yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
The children will be monitored for a year to look for side effects and measure antibody levels that will help researchers determine whether the vaccine is effective. Antibody levels will be the main indicator, but researchers will also look for coronavirus infections, with or without symptoms.
Of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently approved by the FDA for use nationwide, Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s jabs are only authorized for adults 18 and older, while Pfizer’s shot can be given to people 16 and older.
Notably, children are well-established as the least at-risk group to contract COVID-19.
AstraZeneca was slated to begin its own vaccine testing on children 6-17 in the UK last month, but those efforts are likely halted as dozens of countries in Europe and Asia suspended the use of its vaccines over reports of blood clots and deaths.
California’s Department of Public Health even issued an order in January suspending Moderna vaccinations after a high number of people reported allergic reactions.
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