The University of Oxford plans to test its COVID-19 vaccine in children for the first time, becoming the latest vaccine developer to assess whether its coronavirus shot is effective in young people.
The trial announced Saturday seeks to recruit 300 volunteers between the ages of 6 and 17, with up to 240 receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and the remainder a control meningitis vaccine.
Andrew Pollard, chief researcher on the Oxford vaccine trial, says that while most children don’t get severely ill from COVID-19, “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.”
Regulators in more than 50 countries have authorized widespread use of the Oxford vaccine, which is being produced and distributed by AstraZeneca, for use in people over the age of 18.
Other drug companies are also testing the COVID-19 vaccines in children. Pfizer, whose vaccine has already been authorized for use in people 16 and older, began testing its shot in children as young as 12 in October. Moderna in December began testing its vaccine on children as young as 12.
Pollard said the Oxford trial should help policymakers decide whether at some point in the future they want to extend mass vaccination programs to children as they seek to ensure schools are safe and combat the spread of the virus in the wider population.
“For most children, for themselves, COVID is really not a big problem…,” Pollard told The Associated Press. “However, it is certainly possible that wider use to try and curb the progress of the pandemic might be considered in the future, so here we’re just trying to establish the data that would support that if indeed policymakers wanted to go in that direction.”