A long-term National Institutes of Health (NIH) study on the impacts of COVID-19 on children and young adults enrolled its first participant, the agency announced on Monday.
The NIH’s research intends to follow 1,000 children and young adults ages 3 to 21 who previously tested positive for COVID-19 over three years to examine the virus’s impact on their physical and mental health, including their development and immune responses to the virus.
The agency enrolled its first participant from its Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., as part of the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative. Participants need parents’ or guardians’ consent to be enrolled.
Researchers will give children physical examinations, scan their hearts and other organs, and collect samples, including blood, nasal swabs, stool and urine. Children and young adult participants will have the option to determine any risk factors with genetic analysis.
Participants who join the study more than 12 weeks after a positive test will go to the clinic every six months for three years. Those who participate within 12 weeks of a positive test will also see researchers at the three- and six-month points.
The study comes after more children were hospitalized for COVID-19 amid the delta variant surge in recent months than previously in the pandemic.
Data earlier in the pandemic indicated that children were less likely to suffer from severe COVID-19, but at this point, almost 6 million have contracted the disease and nearly 600 have died, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
Many have also suffered from “significant acute and long-term effects” from COVID-19, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.
Top infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKid Rock releases anti-Biden, anti-Fauci single with a 'Let's go, Brandon' chorus Fauci: Omicron-specific vaccines 'prudent' but may be unnecessary Conservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul MORE said scientists “still do not have a clear picture” on how COVID-19 affects children over time.
“Our investigations into the pediatric population will deepen our understanding of the public health impact that the pandemic has had and will continue to have in the months and years to come,” he said in a statement.
Children ages 5 to 11 first became eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this month following the CDC’s recommendation for the age group. Vaccinations became available for 12- to 15-year-olds in May.
With fewer vaccinations among the 28 million newly eligible children, the younger population remains “especially vulnerable to infection.”