Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to be tested in UK children

13 February 2021, 09:00 | Updated: 13 February 2021, 09:16

Clinical trials will begin to test the Covid-19 vaccine's efficacy among children
Clinical trials will begin to test the Covid-19 vaccine's efficacy among children. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be tested on UK children as young as six in a world-first clinical trial to test its efficacy in young people.

Some 300 volunteers will be assessed for whether the drug - known as the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine - produces a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17.

Researchers will begin administering inoculations for the trial this month, with up to 240 kids receiving a real jab and the rest being given a control meningitis shot.

Oxford's jab is among three in Britain that have so far been given approval for use in adults, along with the shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the latter of which is yet to be rolled out in the UK.

Andrew Pollard - professor of paediatric infection and immunity, and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial - said that despite children being "relatively unaffected" by Covid-19, it is important to establish the safety and immune response to the drug in young people "as some children may benefit from vaccination".

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"These new trials will extend our understanding of control of SARS-CoV2 to younger age groups," he added.

Earlier this week, England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said "several" trials were under way to develop vaccines that are safe and effective in children.

He told ITV News: "It is perfectly possible that we will have some licensed children's vaccines for Covid-19 by the end of the year."

There is evidence coronavirus can cause death and severe illness in children, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, however it added that this is rare.

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It said: "In children, the evidence is now clear that Covid-19 is associated with a considerably lower burden of morbidity and mortality compared to that seen in the elderly.

"There is also some evidence that children may be less likely to acquire the infection.

"The role of children in transmission, once they have acquired the infection, is unclear, although there is no clear evidence that they are any more infectious than adults."

The University of Oxford said their trial is the first to look into the six-17 age group. It said other trials in young people had begun but only measuring efficacy in those aged 16 and 17.

Rinn Song, paediatrician and clinician-scientist at the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound negative impact on the education, social development and emotional well-being of children and adolescents, beyond illness and rare severe disease presentations.

"It is, therefore, important to collect data on the safety and the immune response to our coronavirus vaccine in these age groups, so that they could potentially benefit from inclusion in vaccination programs in the near future."

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