The Oxford COVID-19 vaccine is set to be tested on children as young as six. Reuters

The Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine is to begin testing its efficacy in children aged six to 17.

It will be the first trial in children so young.

Children are much less affected by the novel coronavirus than adults, but there is still a risk.

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The University of Oxford is to start testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children as young as six, it was announced today.

The vaccine, produced by AstraZeneca, is the latest to be trialed for safety and effectiveness in those under-18, following Pfizer and Moderna, which began testing in over-12s in October and December, respectively.

According to the University of Oxford, however, it is the first to test on children as young as six.

Oxford researchers are recruiting 300 children between the ages of six and 17 for the trial, which will assess whether the vaccine produces a strong immune response in youngsters.

Up to 240 will be given the COVID-19 vaccine, and the remaining participants will be given a meningitis jab as a control.

The trial is set to begin this month, taking place at Oxford University and its sister sites in London, Southampton, and Bristol, Sky News reports.

The Oxford vaccine has been cleared for use in adults in 50 countries around the world.

The Oxford COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use across the world. Reuters/Johanna Geron

“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,” Andrew Pollard, chief researcher on the Oxford vaccine trial, told the Associated Press.

“For most children, for themselves, COVID is really not a big problem,” he continued. “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.”

According to England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, it’s “perfectly possible” that there will be safe COVID-19 vaccines available for children by the end of the year.

Story continues

Children are generally much less affected by the novel coronavirus than adults, but there is still a risk.

Evidence suggests that not only are children less likely to catch the virus, they are also less likely to suffer severe consequences, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

It said: “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. 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.”

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