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Doctor: 'We’re definitely getting closer' as Moderna vaccine trial progresses at USF

USF is one of nearly 100 sites studying the vaccine's effectiveness on children under 12.

TAMPA, Fla — Researchers at the University of South Florida say great progress continues on a trial studying the safety and effectiveness of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on children under 12.

“We’re definitely were getting closer,” said Dr. Carina Rodriguez, USF Health’s primary investigator for the Tampa-based trial.

The USF Morsani College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, is one of nearly 100 sites across the U.S. and Canada monitoring children in two age groups, between 6 months and 11 years old.

“The trial is actually progressing very well.  The older patients have received their initial two shots and continue to be followed for safety,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

A second, similar reduced dose vaccine developed by Pfizer awaits authorization from the FDA for children between 5 and 11.

While Rodriguez has no involvement in that trial, she says the approval is expected soon.

“Maybe at some point in November. The CDC will likely look following the FDA decision – so that will happen. For the younger kids, I think it's going to take a little bit longer so we have maybe a few months to kind of go beyond that age.”

While the doses are slightly different, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use similar mRNA technology and are showing similar results to earlier trials with adults and teens.

She says cases of severe side effects like inflammation around the heart remain very isolated.

“That potential risk that it could happen with myocarditis with these vaccines is extremely rare in comparison to what the actual disease [COVID] could be,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

She added, children getting the vaccine could actually help protect parents, grandparents, teachers and the rest of society, just as much as it protects the kids themselves.

“The child is actually bringing COVID into the home, so we're all in this together,” Rodriguez said.