COVID-19 vaccine trials are to be extended to include teenagers and children, Oxford researchers have confirmed.

The University of Oxford, together with three partner sites in London, Southampton and Bristol, want to assess how the vaccine, already deemed safe in adults, fare in young people aged between six and 17.

A total of 300 volunteers will be recruited for the trial, of which 240 of the young people will be given the vaccine and the remaining participants will receive the meningitis vaccine. This is because the meningitis jab is safe and is also supposed to produce similar reactions than the COVID vaccine.

Professor Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity, and Chief Investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, 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. These new trials will extend our understanding of control of SARS-CoV2 to younger age groups.’

Dr Rinn Song, Paediatrician and Clinician-Scientist, 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.”

Grace Li, Paediatric Clinical Research Fellow, Oxford Vaccine Group, said: “This study will play an important role in helping to protect children in the future. We’ve already seen that the vaccine is safe and effective in adults, and our understanding of how children are affected by the coronavirus continues to evolve.”

The trial has already begun and the vaccines are expected to be rolled out during the rest of February.

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