Moderna President Says Older Kids Could Be COVID Vaccinated by the Start of the Next School Year

“We certainly haven't seen anything concerning in prior work that would suggest we can't use the vaccine in children,” said Dr. Stephen Hoge

child vaccine
A child receiving a vaccine. Photo: Getty

Older children could be approved to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the start of the next school year, the president of Moderna said Wednesday, one day after the company began trials in kids aged 6 months to 12 years old.

Speaking with Today, Moderna president Dr. Stephen Hoge said that they are already well into testing the vaccine in kids aged 12 to 17, and that group could potentially begin getting inoculated this fall.

"We've already completed enrollment in our teen cove trial, which is adolescents 12 to 17. We expect to have data from that 12 to 17 teen cove study, hopefully perhaps by the summer, so we could be vaccinating adolescents going into the school year," he said.

Data from the trials in the 6 months to 12 years age group, who are at a lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19, will take "a little longer."

"The reason is you need to be a little more cautious and progressive in working down dose levels in the kids to find the right dose," he said. "It has two parts to it. The first part is going to be in a small number of participants, looking at doses and finding the right, safe, and effective dose. The second part will expand to 7,000 [participants]. Because it's the two parts, it'll probably take the better part of this year to complete."

But Hoge said that they do not expect there to be any safety issues with using the vaccine in kids.

"We still are blinded to these studies, so I don't have any information specifically from the studies, but we certainly haven't seen anything concerning in prior work that would suggest we can't use the vaccine in children."

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Along with testing the initial version of the vaccine in children, Moderna is also working on developing a booster shot for the general population that would better protect against the faster-spreading COVID-19 variants now circulating around the world.

"That booster is something we're trying to have available for perhaps the fall of this year, in case those new variants emerge and become a threat in the fall or winter of 2021," Hoge said. The Moderna vaccine, along with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson's, have been found to be effective against those strains, which were first identified in South Africa and Brazil, but at a lower level than the earlier COVID-19 strains.

And as the U.S.'s vaccine rollout continues ramping up, with President Joe Biden saying last week that he expects all states to open eligibility to all adults by May, Hoge said they are "working around the clock" to get their promised 100 million vaccine doses to states by the end of March.

"We've been delivering over 10 million doses a week," he said. "… We're going to keep working through the balance of this month to get the 100 million out the door."

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