Cincinnati Children's Hospital Begins COVID-19 Vaccine Trials on Kids

Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines currently are only available to adults and older teens.

Mar 30, 2021 at 10:53 am
Cincinnati Children's - Photo: Courtesy of Cincinnati Children's Hospital
Photo: Courtesy of Cincinnati Children's Hospital
Cincinnati Children's

Adults and older teens have been approved for COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer, but kids generally have been left out of the vaccine scramble so far.

That may change in the coming months, though, as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center began its Pfizer vaccine trials for children ages 5-11 this week. Children’s has been the site for a number of COVID-19 vaccine trials.

During trials, participants typically are injected with a vaccine or a saline placebo without knowing which one they’re receiving. Over time, participants will relay any side effects, provide blood samples and share other data, as noted in this call for volunteers for Children’s AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial last year. Participants are paid for their time.

Currently, the COVID-19 vaccines are approved only for adults. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are for ages 18 and up, while the Pfizer vaccine can be given to those 16 and up, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Ohio's phased distribution plan, COVID-19 vaccines are now available to residents ages 16 and up. In Kentucky, vaccines can be given to those 40 and older; younger ages will qualify for the vaccine soon.

The website for the Vaccine Research Center at Children’s describes why children’s trials are necessary.

“Children are not little adults. Without research, doctors cannot know how best to diagnose and treat babies and children,” the website says. “About two out of three medicines used for sick children have not been tested in children for correct dosage, safety and side effects. Also, research involving healthy kids adds important information to improve children’s health by learning more about their bodies and how they work.

Robert W. Frenck Jr., M.D., director of the Vaccine Research Center, said during a seminar about COVID-19 vaccine development and implementation that safety is the biggest priority in bringing vaccines to market. 

“The only way you have no risk in research is that you don’t do research. Whenever you start to conduct research, there will always be risk, but we want to maximize our benefit and minimize our risk,” Frenck said during the January seminar.

Children’s is enrolling both adults and children in a variety of research trials. To learn about the studies or to see if you qualify, visit the Children’s website. General vaccine information can be found on Children's new vaccine resources site.