Child trials for COVID-19 vaccine to begin soon

Published: November 23, 2020 8:38 AM EST

You may be closely watching progress on COVID-19 vaccines, and wondering when you and your family members can get one. But for children, trials have not even started yet.

When it comes to testing a vaccine on children, scientists need to answer two big questions: Is it safe? If it is, what is the right dose?

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, scientists are testing the vaccine on infant chimpanzees right now. And Ross McKinney, chief scientific officer for the AAMC, says it won’t be long before testing on children under the age of 12 begins.

“They’ll measure the amount of antibody response in the kids, and see whether the vaccine generates in children the same kind of neutralizing antibody response it gets in adults,” McKinney said. “If it does, they’ll be able to approve the vaccine.”

MckKinney says the trials for children will be much less extensive, needing far fewer than the 60,000 adults involved in the Pfizer trails.

The vaccine has already been tested on 300 children between the ages of 12 and 18, and children’s hospitals across the country are already creating a network of even younger children to test the vaccine.

McKinney says many past vaccines had been developed for children first. That’s not the case with the coronavirus: As symptoms are worse in older people, the focus for vaccine trials is on adults. Once the vaccine is deemed safe by the FDA, McKinney says the testing process should move fast for children.

“They’ll do enough to know that it’s safe, that’s key; that’s a few thousand, but they don’t need to do 30,000 and they probably won’t have a control number,” McKinney said.

McKinney says some schools are looking to add the COVID-19 vaccine to their lists of required shots and may be able to do so as early as fall of 2021.