COVID vaccine for kids: Trial continues as school year nears

The medical community is racing to study how effective COVID-19 vaccines are in children, and part of that work is centered in Wisconsin.

With the first day of school, if it hasn't already come, just two weeks away for most districts, the principal investigator for the UW Health Moderna Pediatric Vaccine Trial said his team understands time is of the essence – but they won't cut corners on safety.

As classrooms will soon be full of students and teachers for a third school year impact by COVID-19, the numbers show the pandemic isn't over just yet. The delta variant is fueling more cases, including in children.

"Over the past three weeks here in Milwaukee County, the proportion of kids as a proportion of total COVID cases has been slightly higher than 20%," said Darren Rausch with the Greenfield Health Department.

That is why UW Health's Dr. William Hartman and his team are eager to study how effective the Moderna vaccine will be in children between 6 months and 12 years old.

"What we know is that the kids don't need as high a dose as the adults do, and so the dose in this initial group of kids, the 6 to 12-year-olds, has been reduced by about half," Hartman said.

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Announced on Aug. 12, the study has already hit its recruiting goal of nearly 4,000 kids nationwide. It comes as school boards across the country debate back-to-school safety plans, vaccine requirements for staff and mask mandates for everyone.

"It's important, especially as school is just about to begin and kids are going to be congregating in close spaces," said Hartman.

Classroom during COVID-19 pandemic

Health experts insist the best path forward is getting a vaccine.

"We need to vaccinate ourselves out of this problem. COVID will not simply go away," said Rausch.

UW Health said participation in the trial is a 14-month commitment with follow-up appointments. Hartman said he thinks the vaccines could be approved for children by Christmas.

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