As the rush to vaccinate the general population against COVID-19 continues, manufacturer Moderna has chosen Houston as one of four locations to hosts trials for a version aimed at adolescents.
The two current vaccines being administered, one by Moderna and another by Pfizer, are currently only approved for adult patients. An argument about whether the Pfizer vaccine was safe for 17-year-olds constituted the only dissent among a government panel that approved the vaccine in December. As children are considered low risks for infection and death from the coronavirus compared to adults and the elderly, inoculating them has not been a priority.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that children may be far more likely to spread the virus than previously thought. A recent University of Florida study shows that while they are less likely to get the virus, when they do, they are 60 percent more likely to infect others than adults. Clearly, there is a need for an adolescent vaccine.
The Moderna trial is fairly simple. Children between the ages of 12 and 17 will be given two shots a month apart and will have six doctor visits over the course of 13 months. Smokers and those who have traveled outside the United States in the past month are excluded from participating. Prior to each injection, the patients will also be given a nasal swab to test for COVID.
Families that participate in the study will receive compensation, though the nature of the reward will only be revealed at the study site. Participants are also able to drop out at any time. The study is using a 2:1 ration, meaning that 67 percent of the participants will receive the vaccine as opposed to a placebo.
The vaccine is made from an instructional molecule called mRNA and does not count as a live virus. It is impossible to get COVID from the vaccine. Participants will be monitored closely for both effectiveness and side effects. According to the FDA, the most commonly reported side effects of the current Moderna vaccine are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting, and fever. These are more common after the second dose and may last several days.
Moderna has set up a website for parents to check if their child is eligible to participate in the trial. Insurance is not required to participate. Considering how slow the rollout of vaccinations has been, this is one way that parents can (perhaps) protect their kids from the ongoing COVID outbreak.
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