Britain’s University of Oxford said Saturday it will test the impact of its Covid-19 vaccine on children, becoming the first developer to trial whether its coronavirus shot is effective in young people.
The trial will assess the “safety and immune responses” in children and young adults aged between 6 and 17 of the vaccine it developed with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, the university said in a statement.
The trial, which will enroll 300 volunteers will take place in three English cities, London, Southampton and Bristol, the statement added. The inoculations are expected later in February, it said.
“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 Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial.
The two-dose Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals.
AstraZeneca has a target to produce 3 billion doses this year and has said it has multiple orders from countries including the United States, Canada, Japan and Brazil, as well as the U.K.
Britain has Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak with more than 116,000 deaths, and is in its third national lockdown as authorities try to contain new, more transmissible virus variants. Most schools are also closed.
In recent weeks, there have been concerns about the vaccine’s effectiveness to global mutations, in particular a variant detected in South Africa.
Earlier this month, the U.K. also announced it would be trialling mixing vaccine shots. Patients will receive different vaccines for their first and second doses: either the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot followed by the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, or vice versa.
Britain has been championing its public vaccination efforts as more than 14 million people from its population of around 66 million have received their first vaccine dose, so far.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates are among other countries far ahead of the U.S. and European Union nations with vaccination roll-outs, according to Oxford University’s global vaccination tracker website.
More than 2 million people across the world have died from the coronavirus, so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.