Omaha Hospital Beginning COVID-19 Vaccine Trials for Children

June 14, 2021, 8 a.m. ·

A woman gives a Covid vaccine at Pinnacle Bank Arena Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.jpg
Omaha Children’s Hospital & Medical Center is testing a smaller dose of the Pfizer vaccine on children ages 5-11. (Photo courtesy Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department)

An Omaha medical institute is beginning COVID-19 vaccine trials on children below the age of 12 as part of a global study.

Dr. Alice Sato is the hospital epidemiologist for Omaha Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. She says the hospital, working with the Child Health Research Institute, is testing a smaller dose of the Pfizer vaccine on children ages 5-11. After the first trial, she says the study will move to children 2-5 years old and then children who are 2 years to 6 months old.

"So, they want to be able to look at the immune responses in children of different ages and to make sure that at that level of maturity of their immune system, that they are getting a good effective response," said Sato.

Sato said she has heard criticisms of the effort to vaccinate children as a way to simply reach herd immunity or even that it may not be worth the effort at all. She fiercely disagrees with those notions, noting children can still be severely impacted by the virus.

“We have seen children develop autoimmune diseases. Children develop damage to their lungs. Children have trouble with taste. All sorts of negative health impacts from being infected with this virus,” Sato said.

It is hard to know exactly when the trials will be complete, but, Sato said, if all goes well, results could be available within a few months.

Sato said CHRI currently has twenty children in the older group participating in the trial with plans to enroll another 30 throughout the younger groups. The study plans to enroll 4,600 children globally.

She does not predict a problem finding willing participants.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for having a vaccine for younger children,” Sato said.

In fact, she said CHRI had to impose a lottery system due to the high demand for trial registrations