How to Enroll a Child in a COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

Clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness in children under 12 are ongoing. Demand for trial participation is high, so parents might need to be patient.

Kathryn Underwood - Author

Sep. 16 2021, Published 2:11 p.m. ET

Young child getting vaccinated
Source: Unsplash

The process of developing an effective vaccine to protect individuals from COVID-19 involved multiple pharmaceutical companies, massive funding, and clinical trials to determine efficacy and safety. While it has been difficult to convince some populations to get vaccinated, the other side of the issue is parents wanting their children to get vaccinated.

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So far, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received full FDA approval, which means that it has passed rigorous safety standards and evaluated a longer period of data for the vaccine trials. However, for children aged 12–15, the vaccine only has emergency authorization, and for children 11 and younger, there isn't an approved vaccine at this point.

Child COVID vaccine trial signup

As schools have opened up for the fall and the Delta variant of the coronavirus has spread easily throughout the country, many parents are eager to sign their children up for vaccine trials. As The Wall Street Journal reported, “many parents have expressed frustration that vaccines aren’t authorized for children under 12.”

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Currently, Pfizer and BioNTech, the makers of one of the three approved vaccines in the U.S., are conducting clinical trials on its COVID-19 vaccine in children aged between 6 months and four years old. Moderna is also recruiting trial participants.

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Although none of the COVID-19 vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson) are currently approved for children aged 5–11, these clinical trials don't need any more volunteers. According to Norton Children’s Research Institute, in June the worldwide need for volunteers from age 5 to under 12 was filled.

How to find a COVID-19 vaccine trial for children

If you have a child under the age of 12, they might be eligible to participate in a vaccine trial. However, trials fill up quickly.

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Parents who want to enroll their child in a trial for a COVID-19 vaccine should generally look to local research hospitals and health organizations first. They can also search based on the name of the vaccine online, for example, “Moderna child vaccine trials.”

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No matter the company making the vaccine or the hospital conducting the research, parents looking for a child vaccine trial should carefully examine the qualifications and requirements before enrolling a child in a trial. Trials should specify information like how many injections the child would receive and how many in-person visits to a research site are required.

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child covid vaccine
Source: istock

According to The Wall Street Journal, many interested participants are being turned away due to high demand. Signing up for a waitlist might be worthwhile since trial spots might open up if another participant cancels.

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An ER physician, Dr. Sameer Bakhda, enrolled his two sons in trials. He said, “I know the science is sound enough that I’m willing to let my kids be in the trial to make sure that it’s safe for other kids” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Parents should keep in mind that enrolling children in vaccine trials means that they may or may not get the actual vaccine. Some participants receive the true vaccine and others a placebo to allow for comparison of data. Pfizer says that child participants who receive the placebo shots will be offered the actual vaccine at their six-month study visit.


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