Inside The U.S.' First COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial For Kids

The lead investigator on the Pfizer project says positive outcomes in adult trials helped researchers decide to start testing in kids 12 and up.
Posted at 5:07 PM, Oct 26, 2020

COVID-19 children's vaccine clinical trials are underway. How different are these trials from adult ones, and should we be starting trials on kids now, before an adult vaccine is approved? 

"We're not cutting corners, ... we're taking the safety precautions, every safety precaution we normally do. And ... people should have confidence in the process."

Dr. Robert Frenck is the lead investigator for the Pfizer COVID-19 children's vaccine clinical trial at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, which is the first to test on children in the U.S.

"Almost 30,000 adults have been enrolled in the study so far," says Frenck. "And we have a pretty good idea as far as with the safety of the vaccine and the immune response, the vaccines to where we felt comfortable to move down into children."

Frenck says the Pfizer adult trials are seeing some promise without huge side effects. About 13% of adults enrolled experienced fatigue, joint aches or muscle aches, like when some people get a flu shot. He also says children's studies require fewer volunteers. 

They started testing on 12-year-olds last week and on older children last month. 

16-year-old study participant Katelyn Evans says, "It feels good definitely to be helping them put out a vaccine as soon as possible and just to be helping in any way I can right now."

"Part of the thing with COVID, but where it's been so different from a lot of things is the pandemic is that so many people are becoming infected and are dying. And so that's why we really have pushed forward the children fairly quickly," says Frenck.

"If we want to achieve any level of herd immunity, we're going to need to aim to vaccinate as much of the population as possible. And that includes children," says Dr. Sean O'Leary, professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the vice chair of the committee on infectious diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

A working COVID vaccine can help kids go back to school, and it can protect them from unknown long-term effects of the coronavirus. But one way to protect children now, says O'Leary, is to be up to date with other vaccines. 

"We don't have a safe, effective COVID vaccine yet. And particularly not for children. But we do have a lot of other safe and effective vaccines for children, for diseases that are actually, for children, far more serious than SARS-COV 2," says O'Leary.