Together with three partner sites in London, Southampton and Bristol, Oxford will launch the first study to learn how children and young adults (ages 6 to 17) respond to the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 coronavirus vaccine.
Previous trials of the vaccine have shown that it is safe, but this phase 2 trial -- funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and AstraZeneca -- will show if kids have a good immune response to the shot.
Oxford said in a press release that 300 volunteers will be enrolled in the study -- 240 of them will receive the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine and the remainder a control meningitis vaccine, "which has been shown to be safe in children but is expected to produce similar reactions, such as a sore arm."
"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," Andrew Pollard, a professor of paediatric infection and Immunity, and the chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said. "These new trials will extend our understanding of control of SARS-CoV2 to younger age groups."
The news comes as school districts across the country battle with reopening schools due to the risks associated with the virus.
"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," Rinn Song, a paediatrician and clinician-scientist for the Oxford Vaccine Group, said.
Grace Li, a paediatric clinical research fellow for the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the trial will play an important role in protecting children from the virus.
The trial will begin Saturday, according to Oxford's statement, and the first shots are expected to be given sometime this month.