Oxford Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Study in Children

Carolyn Crist

February 16, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Oxford University is starting a COVID-19 vaccine study with children and young adults between ages 6 and 17.

At Oxford and three partner sites in London, Southampton, and Bristol, the phase 2 clinical trial will test whether kids and teens have a good immune response to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Previous trials have shown that the shot is safe in children.

"While most children are relatively unaffected by coronavirus and are unlikely to become unwell with the infection, it is important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young people as some children may benefit from vaccination," Andrew Pollard, PhD, the chief investigator for the trial and a professor of pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford, said in a statement.

The new trial will enroll 300 volunteers, with up to 240 receiving the vaccine. The control group will receive a meningitis vaccine, which is safe in children and produces similar side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine, such as a sore arm.

COVID-19 vaccine trials have included children over age 12, so this marks the youngest group to be tested so far. Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen have announced plans to start trials in younger children this spring, according to The Washington Post. Widespread vaccination in children likely won't occur until 2022, the newspaper reported.

The trial launched on Friday, and the first vaccinations are expected by the end of the month. Parents can visit Oxford's COVID-19 Vaccine Trial website to sign their children up for the study.

"This study will play an important role in helping to protect children in the future," Grace Li, a pediatric clinical research fellow for the Oxford Vaccine Group, said in the statement.

"We've already seen that the vaccine is safe and effective in adults, and our understanding of how children are affected by the coronavirus continues to evolve," she said.

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