Pfizer testing its Covid vaccine on babies as young as six months in child trial

Pfizer has begun testing its coronavirus vaccine on children including six-month-old babies.

The US pharmaceutical giant has announced the first volunteers in the early-stage trial were given their jabs on Wednesday.

The participants were a pair of nine-year-old twin girls who received the vaccine at Duke University in North Carolina.

The paediatric trial will test kids between six months and 12 years of age, Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo said.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech plan to first test the safety of their two-shot vaccine at three different dosages – 10, 20 and 30 micrograms – in a 144-participant Phase I/II trial.

The plan is then to expand into a 4,500-participant late-stage trial in which they will test the safety, tolerability and immune response generated by the vaccine, probably by measuring antibody levels in the children.

Pfizer said in a statement: "Together with our partner BioNTech, we have dosed the first healthy children in a global Phase 1/2/3 continuous study to further evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

"We are proud to start this much needed study for children and families eagerly awaiting a possible vaccine option."

Pfizer is already testing the shots in teens and pre-teens aged 12 to 15 in the US, and its US emergency authorisation covers people aged 16 and up.

The news follows Moderna's launch of a vaccine trial for kids last week.

In February the US-based company announced it would be trialling 3,000 12 to 17 year-olds as its Covid-19 vaccine continues to be rolled out across the states.

The UK has already approved the Moderna jab for use, and in the next few months is set to receive approximately 17 million doses of the jab.

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As part of the new study, Moderna will abide by "age de-escalation" meaning older participants will get the jab first, as well as "dose escalation".

This means researchers will start with smaller doses of the vaccine and only work up to normal adult doses once the jabs have proven to be safe.

In February it was announced the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine would be tested on 300 child volunteers as young as six.

The question of whether UK children should be vaccinated as part of the nation's path out of lockdown has been the topic of much debate.

Rinn Song, paediatrician and clinical scientist at the Oxford Vaccine Group, said last month: "The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound negative impact on the education, social development and emotional well-being of children and adolescents, beyond illness and rare severe disease presentations.

"It is therefore important to collect data on the safety and the immune response to our coronavirus vaccine in these age groups, so that they could potentially benefit from inclusion in vaccination programs in the near future.

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