St George’s Hospital begins children’s Covid-19 vaccine trial

In a new milestone for the national Covid-19 vaccine programme, St George’s Hospital in Tooting will be one of four sites in the UK assessing how children respond to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

The trial launched today and the first vaccinations are expected to be given by the end of the month.

St George’s are currently recruiting children aged between six-17 years-old living in the London area to take part, but requiring anyone under 16 to have parental consent.

Government guidance currently states that only children who are at very high risk of serious illness from Covid-19 should receive vaccines, because so far there is no data on vaccination in younger children.

These trials are the first step towards gathering that data.

Dr Catherine Cosgrove, Consultant in Infectious Diseases and Acute Medicine at St George’s, said: “While the majority of hospital admissions during the pandemic have been of older adults, there were a small number of children who did require treatment in hospital.

“It is therefore important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young adults as some of them may benefit from vaccination.”

The study requires 300 child volunteers from across the country, of which 240 will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The remainder shall receive a control meningitis vaccine, which is proven to be safe in children, but is expected to produce similar reactions to the AstraZeneca jab, such as a sore arm.

Professor Paul Heath, Consultant in Paediatric Infectious Diseases at St George’s and Director of the Vaccine Institute, said: “Children and young adults taking part in the study will be given the same dose of the vaccine that was given to participants in the adult trial.

“The results of the adult trial, which was also carried out at St George’s, found that the vaccine is safe, produces strong immune system responses, and has excellent levels of protection in all adults.”

As well as St George’s, other sites carrying out the trials across the UK include the University of Oxford, University Hospital Southampton, and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

The trial is expected to last one year, and St George’s particularly welcomes participation from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups.

For further information on the St George’s Covid-19 vaccine trial, including on how to sign up, click here.

Featured image credit: Alexandra Lodge

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