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Health Team

Children as young as 12 needed for COVID-19 vaccine trials

Posted December 4, 2020 5:32 p.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2020 5:11 p.m. EST

— Companies like Pfizer and Moderna, who have been working on a COVID-19 vaccine, are shifting their focus to younger age groups, preparing to test their vaccines on kids as young as 12.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials have shown promising results with over 90% effectiveness among adults.

“We are going to be asleep at the wheel on this issue if we don’t think about children,” said Dr. Gavin Yamey, a global health and public policy professor.

“While the mortality is less among children than among adults, I have seen COVID at it’s worst among children, and we have had a lot of cases here at UNC. We know what COVID can do,” said Dr. Payton Thompson, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UNC.

Since children have much different immune systems than adults, getting out a vaccine that works for them is critical, said Thompson.

Health experts said children are a key part of the equation. Just this week Moderna committed to enrolling roughly 3,000 people from ages 12 to 17 in its study.

“It would be two doses of the vaccine separated by a period of either three or four weeks depending on which vaccine is given,” said Thompson.

However, not all parents are confident in injecting their children with such a new vaccine.

“I just don’t feel like injecting something into my children’s bodies for something that’s just been around for maybe three months is the best decision for my family,” said Kira Parris-Moore, a parent of two.

She plans to take the ‘wait and see’ approach with concerns on its potential side effects.

“With my son having autism, I just don’t feel comfortable with the fact that this vaccines has not been vetted for along period of time,” she said.

“Parents can be reassured that we really are paying attention to the safety of these vaccines,” added Thompson.

As health experts reassure the safety of the clinical trial processes, they believe any encouraging results in their studies among this population can play a huge role in creating herd immunity and survive this pandemic.

“Kids are the ones interacting with others at daycare and school – interacting with teachers and an adult as well,” said Thompson.

Since parents will have to consent to enrolling their children in a clinical trial, it is expected to take much longer to recruit people for the study and get results from the vaccines.

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