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Oxford University to begin testing COVID-19 vaccine in children

Oxford University to begin testing COVID-19 vaccine in children
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Oxford University on Friday announced the launch of a new study measuring the safety and efficacy of its coronavirus vaccine in children.

The university, which developed the vaccine with AstraZeneca, said in a press release that the trial will include children as young as 6 years old, with approximately 300 volunteers participating in the study. 

Andrew Pollard, the trial’s chief investigator, said in a statement, “While most children are relatively unaffected by coronavirus and are unlikely to become unwell with the infection, 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.” 

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Rinn Song, pediatrician and clinician-scientist at Oxford, said that it is important to collect data on vaccines for younger age groups, “so that they could potentially benefit from inclusion in vaccination programs in the near future.”

Song also pointed out how the “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.”

Thus far, coronavirus vaccines have largely been tested and approved by countries for emergency use for people as young as 16, though Pfizer and Moderna currently have clinical trials underway to determine the safety and efficacy of vaccinations among children. 

Late last month, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciDelta variant's UK dominance sparks concerns in US Overnight Health Care: FDA says millions of J&J doses from troubled plant must be thrown out | WHO warns Africa falling far behind in vaccinations | Top CDC official says US not ready for next pandemic Top CDC official warns US not ready for next pandemic MORE, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House coronavirus briefing that he hoped vaccines would be extended to children within the next few months. 

"Over the next couple of months, we will be doing trials in an age deescalation manner so that hopefully by the time we get to the late spring and early summer we will have children, being able to be vaccinated, according to the FDA guidance,” Fauci said at the time. 

Oxford’s new trial comes as AstraZeneca is also looking to develop vaccines that can combat new COVID-19 variants, with the drugmaker announcing in a company document Thursday that this could take at least six months. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine, now rolling out in the U.K. and European Union, was praised for its cheap production costs and its less-demanding storage requirements, though recent data has shown it offers “minimal protection” against a COVID-19 variant that was first discovered in South Africa.