Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Meharry Medical College researchers helped determine that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 6 to 11. Earlier this week, Moderna asked for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to offer the vaccine to this age group. 

A national clinical trial was co-led by C. Buddy Creech, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Center, and Vladimir Berthaud with Meharry Medical College. Evan Anderson with Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta was also a co-leader.

Buddy Creech

Dr. C. Buddy Creech

More than 99 percent of the 4,000 children who participated in the study developed antibodies. They were given two doses of the vaccine, each about half of the dosage given to adults. 

In addition, the trial found vaccine efficacy against COVID-19 was at 88 percent (meaning people who had the vaccine had an 88-percent lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than the placebo group) beginning as early as two weeks after the first dose of vaccine. 

“That’s very similar with what we have seen in the adult COVID-19 vaccine trials, where we see 90-95 percent vaccine efficacy,” said Creech.

Moderna recently requested authorization to vaccinate children as young as six months, too.    

The news comes as infection rates worsen in Tennessee, with average daily infections more than doubling in the past month — from 286 to 670. On the day the trial results were released, Tennessee reported a daily COVID-19 total of more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since March 3. In Davidson County, there were 125 average daily infections as of May 7, up from an average of 45 new daily cases a month ago. 

Children represent around 10 percent of all cases in the state and 18.2 percent of cases in Davidson County, down from more than 30 percent of cases in the state in January. 

In October, the FDA approved Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, and the Centers for Disease Control recommended it shortly thereafter. 

Nationally, only about 29 percent of 5-to-11-year-olds are fully vaccinated. In Tennessee, 15.6 percent of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated. 

Creech said it’s important to have more than one COVID-19 vaccine option for children.

“Overall, COVID-19 is typically milder in children; however, we’ve seen substantial classroom outbreaks, children transmitting the virus to at-risk parents and grandparents, myocarditis and long COVID, and we’ve seen far more children die from COVID directly than we see die from influenza every year,” Creech said.

Creech acknowledged the frustration that many parents have while waiting to have the OK to vaccinate their children, but there’s a balance between wanting to get authorization for children in a timely manner while not rushing or cutting corners. 

“Evaluating COVID-19 vaccines is really all we’ve done for the last two years,” Creech continued. “Parents can have a lot of confidence that we are doing these studies in the exact same way that we do every other vaccine study, but with even more oversight and scrutiny.”