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COVID-19: Oxford/AstraZeneca to begin vaccine trials on children as young as six

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Scientists are now looking for volunteers between the ages of six and 17
Scientists are now looking for volunteers between the ages of six and 17   -   Copyright  Alessandra Tarantino/AP
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Hundreds of children are being recruited to trial the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine as it continues its roll-out to adults worldwide.

The vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is currently only administered to those aged over 18 - but the new study aims to broaden this grouping further.

Scientists are looking for 300 volunteers aged between six and 17 to participate in the year-long trial, where 240 will be given the COVID-19 vaccine, and 60 a control meningitis vaccine.

Anyone aged between 16 and 17 is eligible to make the decision to take part themselves, while anyone younger would need the permission of a parent or guardian.

This is not the first COVID vaccine to be tested on children; Pfizer began trials on those aged between 12 and 16 in October, while Moderna did the same in December.

"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 Oxford trial researcher Andrew Pollard, who also noted children are least likely to experience severe effects of the disease.

"For most children, for themselves, COVID is really not a big problem […] However, it is certainly possible that wider use to try and curb the progress of the pandemic might be considered in the future, so here we’re just trying to establish the data that would support that if indeed policymakers wanted to go in that direction."