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Children as young as six join Oxford vaccine trial

Charlie Hancock reports on the latest stage of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial, which includes children as young as 6.

Oxford University has begun a clinical trial of the vaccine it developed with AstraZeneca on children aged between 6-17. The trial will assess whether the vaccine produces a response in young people, giving them immunity against COVID-19.

The single-blind, randomised phase II trial will include 300 volunteers. 240 participants will receive the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, while the remaining 60 will receive a control meningitis vaccine to act as a placebo. Only the researchers will know who has received which vaccine.

Chief Investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, Professor Andrew Pollard, said: “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.”

Currently, children under the age of 16 who are clinically vulnerable are eligible to receive a vaccine as part of the prioritised groups in the national vaccination programme. The Joint Committee on Vaccination has advised that children aged over 12 who are considered “clinically extremely vulnerable” can receive the vaccine through their paediatrician. The paediatrician would have to inform the child’s parents that the vaccine was not licensed for children that young, and that there is a lack of data into its effectiveness. In this instance, the vaccination would be considered off-license.

Including children in the vaccine trial will increase the amount of data available to scientists to make recommendations about its use in young people.

16 year old Meera, who found out about the trial via Twitter, told ITV she was taking part in the trial to “make a difference”. “It is quite strange but I’m feeling really lucky to have been given the opportunity to have the vaccine,” she added.

12 year old Sylvia decided to volunteer as she “just want[ed] to do something”. Her father volunteered to take part in the vaccine trail in 2020.

The trial is no longer recruiting volunteers in Oxford, but has recruiting sites in London and Bristol. A further site in Southampton is recruiting volunteers aged between 6-11 years old. Children under 16 will require parental consent to take part. Participants from BAME backgrounds are “particularly welcome” to join the trial.

Image: CDC via unsplash.com

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