The efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine in children is set to be tested in a new clinical trial.
British researchers will use 300 volunteers to assess whether the jab – known as the the ChAdOx1 nCOVID-19 vaccine – will produce a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17.
It is one of three to have been approved for use in adults in the UK, along with those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
“While most children are relatively unaffected by coronavirus and are unlikely to become unwell with the infection, it is important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young people as some children may benefit from vaccination,” said chief investigator Professor Andrew Pollard.
“These new trials will extend our understanding of control of SARS-CoV2 to younger age groups.”
The first vaccinations under the trial will take place this month, with up to 240 children receiving the vaccine and the others receiving a control meningitis jab.
Earlier this week, England’s deputy chief medical officer said that “several” trials were under way to develop vaccines that are safe and effective in children.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told ITV News it was “perfectly possible that we will have some licensed children’s vaccines for COVID-19 by the end of the year”.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said there was evidence the virus could cause death and severe illness in children but it was rare.
“In children, the evidence is now clear that COVID-19 is associated with a considerably lower burden of morbidity and mortality compared to that seen in the elderly,” it said.
“There is also some evidence that children may be less likely to acquire the infection. The role of children in transmission, once they have acquired the infection, is unclear, although there is no clear evidence that they are any more infectious than adults.”