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Kids aren’t just littler adults – here’s why they need their own clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine

The freedom of going mask-free is still a ways off for kids under age 12. Juan Monino/E+ via Getty Images

Kids aren’t just littler adults – here’s why they need their own clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine

The freedom of going mask-free is still a ways off for kids under age 12. Juan Monino/E+ via Getty Images

Kids aren’t just littler adults – here’s why they need their own clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine

The freedom of going mask-free is still a ways off for kids under age 12. Juan Monino/E+ via Getty Images

Kids aren’t just littler adults – here’s why they need their own clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine

The freedom of going mask-free is still a ways off for kids under age 12. Juan Monino/E+ via Getty Images

Parents of children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, there is still no collective sigh of relief.

The freedom of going mask-free is still a ways off for kids under age 12. Juan Monino/E+ via Getty Images

Judy Martin, University of Pittsburgh

Now that two-thirds of all adults in the United States have received at least one dose of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine as of mid-July 2021, life seems to be returning to some semblance of pre-pandemic times. People are again traveling, eating in restaurants with friends, attending in-person gatherings and flocking to movie theaters and Major League baseball games.

Yet for parents of children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, there is still no collective sigh of relief. Many parents have concerns about the upcoming school year and the uncertainty surrounding the delta variant.

Clinical research studies of the mRNA-based vaccines for children under 12 are ongoing, and authorization of a vaccine for this younger age group is still at least several months away. These trials are necessary because children have important differences in physiology and responses to vaccines from those of adults. Conducting separate studies in children under age 12 is a vital step toward ending the pandemic.

As a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases, I have been conducting research on common infections in children and related vaccines for over 20 years. Here at the University of Pittsburgh, our Pittsburgh Vaccine Trials Unit has carried out both adult and pediatric clinical trials for vaccines to fight COVID-19.

Ours was one of two COVID-19 vaccine clinical research trial sites in the Pittsburgh area and one of more than 100 sites across the U.S. that have participated in this effort through the COVID-19 Prevention Network, which was formed by the National Institutes of Health to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Our team is about to begin the next phase of trials with the 6-11 year-old age group, which relies on volunteer participants.

A boy receives a shot

The FDA authorized the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds in May. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

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