As NSW announces restrictions around school activities as part of its new COVID-19 control measures, an associate professor at the centre of Oxford University’s promising vaccine efforts says children are at minimal risk of contracting the virus.
Matthew Snape is associate professor in paediatrics and vaccinology at the University’s Oxford Vaccine Group.
He said children under 16 had accounted for just over 1% of all cases of coronavirus cases during England’s “firsts wave” of illness.
“And even among those with respiratory symptoms, only 4% tested positive for the virus, compared with between 19% and 35% in adults,” he told The Guardian.
He believes school children are being disproportionately affected by school restrictions and closures in relation to the risks posed by the pandemic.
The University began its Phase I trials of a COVID-19 vaccine back in April, with Phase III testing now underway.
Phase I/II trial results indicated no early safety concerns, with the vaccine showing strong immune responses in participants.
“The Phase I/II data for our coronavirus vaccine shows that the vaccine did not lead to any unexpected reactions and had a similar safety profile to previous vaccines of this type,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial.
“The immune responses observed following vaccination are in line with what previous animal studies have shown are associated with protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, although we must continue with our rigorous clinical trial programme to confirm this in humans.”
“We saw the strongest immune response in the 10 participants who received two doses of the vaccine, indicating that this might be a good strategy for vaccination,” he said.
The University is working with the UK-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the further development, large-scale manufacture and potential distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says, if trialling ultimately proves successful, the Oxford vaccine would be produced locally in Melbourne and would be made available to every Australian at no charge.
“This is one of the most promising vaccine developments in the world,” said Mr Morrison.
In the final phase of testing, the vaccine is currently being trialled in the US where 30,000 patients are taking part, along with a paediatric study and further trialling in low to medium-income countries including Brazil and South Africa.
AstraZeneca said it remained committed to fulfilling its commitment for broad and equitable access to the vaccine, should late-stage clinical trials prove successful.
So far, commitments to supply more than two billion doses of the vaccine have been agreed with the UK, US, Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), GAVI the Vaccine Alliance, and Serum Institute of India.
Australian is one of 18 bilateral donors to GAVI the Vaccine Alliance.