Rachel Dobkin, Staff Writer |
On Tuesday, Mar. 16, Moderna announced that they will start testing their COVID-19 vaccine on children as young as six months old. The vaccine is normally given to adults, 18 years or older, with the exception of Pfizer which is given to ages as young as 16. Testing the age range of six months to 12 years of age will be a groundbreaking step in COVID-19 vaccination research.
Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said, “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, along with help from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), plans to test 6,750 participants from the U.S. and Canada in a two-part study. In part one, participants ages two to 12 years old will receive one of the two-dose levels, and participants ages six months to two years old will receive one of the three-dose levels. After Moderna analyzes the results of part one, they will determine which dose will be used in part two.
Participants will be followed for 12 months to track the effectiveness and potential side effects of the vaccine on this age group.
To make sure it’s safe for children, “We’re giving different doses for the kids. They’ll be graduated doses because we need to also determine the dose that’s most effective for the kids. So, it starts out with a smaller dose…and then blood work will be done on the kids to determine how they respond so we can determine the right dose for the children,” said Dr. Steve Plimpton, an OB-GYN in Arizona and the principal investigator for a Moderna trial for children in Phoenix.
Plimpton told NPR, “The response from the parents has been overwhelming. They seem very ready. They’re calling literally all day long asking for when they can get their kids vaccinated.”
Plimpton mentioned how parents in Arizona were especially eager to get their children vaccinated because the governor mandated kids to go back to school in-person. President Biden has also mentioned his main goal is to get vaccinated kids back in classrooms, but this was in response to getting teachers vaccinated.
This emphasis on in-person education is also seen in our own administration at SUNY Oneonta. According to the school’s website, their overarching goal for the fall of 2021 is to return to our residential campus values and maximize the student experience on campus. They are working to ensure that 100 percent of the students will have access to courses with in-person, mask-to-mask (M2M) components.
Although it’s proven that children are less likely to get sick from the coronavirus, they can still transmit it. That’s why this vaccine trial, if successful, can actually help achieve herd immunity.
Moderna isn’t the only company testing on younger kids. Pfizer is currently conducting their own study for ages 12 to 15 years old with 2,259 participants.
We’ve come a long way since the start of the pandemic last year and now more than ever there is hope to go back to normalcy. There is hope to get the proper education and social interactions that every child and adult deserves. But just as Biden advises, we must take precautions and not let up because times seem brighter. For any of these trials to work, we need a healthy population.