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Johnson and Johnson expands vaccine trial to include younger teens

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Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that it plans to begin testing its COVID-19 vaccine on children between the ages of 12 to 17.

The company issued a statement, explaining that its Phase 2a study, which began in September of last year, has been expanded to include the trials on younger individuals.

Initially, the study was designed to determine the safety of the vaccine candidate in "healthy adults aged 18 to 55 years, as well as adults aged 65 years and older."

But with the recent expansion, research will include "a small number" of older children and teens. It will first test the COVID-19 vaccine on 16- and 17-year-olds before expanding to a larger group of children.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on adolescents, not just with the complications of the disease, but with their education, mental health, and wellbeing,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson. 

According to White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, vaccines will likely become available to older children in the fall, but it's doubtful that the vaccine will be available for younger, elementary school aged children before next year.

Both Moderna and Pfizer recently announced trials for children under 12 years old. 

Johnson & Johnson says its goal in expanding the study is to "evaluate reactogenicity and immunogenicity of two dose levels of the vaccine candidate, and to evaluate potential vaccination schedules at one, two and three-month intervals in two-dose vaccine regimens."

At the moment, researchers are attempting to recruit participants in Spain and the United Kingdom, a process which the company plans to also soon begin in the United States, the Netherlands and Canada, with Brazil and Argentina.

“It is vital that we develop vaccines for everyone, everywhere, to help combat the spread of the virus with the goal to return to everyday life,” Dr. Stoffels said. 

Johnson & Johnson received Emergency Use Authorization for its one-dose vaccine for individuals 18 years of age or older from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on February 27. 

The company aims to provide the U.S. government with 20 million doses of its vaccine by the end of March, and 80 million more doses by the end of May.


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