When their parents asked if they wanted to be part of a COVID-19 vaccine trial for children, Aidan and Avery Shih didn’t have to think about it for long.
Both were eager to help end the pandemic.
“The vaccine does help you not get COVID, of course, but then also it helps you so you don't spread COVID. So, if enough people get the vaccine, COVID will slow and hopefully eventually stop,” said Aidan, 11.
Also enticing? The idea of spending less time socializing online and more time doing things they enjoy with the people they love.
“One thing Avery asked after she got her first shot is if she could hug her grandma again,” said Aidan and Avery’s mother, Erin Shih, a pediatric endocrinologist with Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. Shih explained to 6-year-old Avery that once she was fully vaccinated, she definitely could.
Aidan and Avery are among the children age 6 months to 11 years participating in a clinical trial for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.
The study will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which was authorized for emergency use in December 2020 for adults 18 and up, for this younger age group.
“Although children seem to be at lower risk for COVID-19 than adults, expanding the availability of safe and effective vaccines to younger populations is crucial,” said William Towner, MD, principal investigator for the study, physician director of clinical trials for the Kaiser Permanente Department of Research & Evaluation in Southern California, and associate professor of clinical science at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine. “In some rare cases, children do get very sick from COVID-19. Having a safe and effective vaccine for children will benefit all of us, as it will potentially reduce transmission of the disease.”
All children participating in the first part of the study — the dosing phase — will receive 2 doses of the vaccine about 28 days apart. This is to determine the appropriate dose for children of different ages.
Children participating in the second part — the efficacy phase — will receive 2 doses of either the vaccine or the placebo. This is to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing children from getting sick with COVID-19.
Kaiser Permanente has been participating in clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines from early in the pandemic. Erin Shih was enrolled in an earlier adult trial.
“We just thought it would be important to contribute to the science behind it, so that other children and their parents could feel safe getting the vaccine once it was approved for everybody,” said Aidan and Avery’s father, Stephen Shih, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.
In Northern California, Kaiser Permanente is participating in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial for children age 5 to 11 at our Santa Clara, Sacramento, and Oakland medical centers. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is already available for use in people 12 and older.
Children who participate in the trials will be monitored for side effects and COVID-19 infection for 1 to 2 years, depending on which trial, after they receive their second dose.
“As a pediatrician and vaccine researcher, it is gratifying to see COVID-19 vaccines being evaluated to protect children,” said Nicola Klein, MD, PhD, principal investigator for the trial, director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Northern California, and professor of health systems science at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine. “Kaiser Permanente is extremely well-positioned to take on this work. We have been doing vaccine clinical trials like this for well over 35 years, and they are key to our mission to contribute to the community’s health and well-being.”