PITTSBURGH — COVID-19 case counts are rising in schools across the country.
School districts are closing due to rising positive tests and, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), about 252,000 were added the week of Sept. 2, the largest number of child cases in a week since the pandemic started.
After declining in early summer, child cases have increased exponentially, with over 750,000 cases added between Aug. 5 and Sept. 2, according to the AAP.
Vaccinations, doctors say, are the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, those are only available for anyone 12-years-old and over. Kids in elementary school and child care centers are left waiting for the vaccine to become available to their age group.
Moderna is hoping to speed up that process, with the help of local healthcare provider UPMC.
The Pittsburgh-based health network is one of 90 across the United States and Canada taking part in Moderna's COVID-19 trials for young children. Currently, Moderna is seeking emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 shot in children 12 to 17-years-old. UPMC is involved in trials for kids six-months-old through 11-years-old, says Dr. Judy Martin, head of the hospital's center for pediatric infectious diseases.
Trials in children between six months and five-years-old are currently in "Phase 2," where doctors are studying the proper dosage amount. Kids six-years-old to 11 are in "Phase 3" of the study, which is determining the efficacy of that dosage, without including unpleasant side effects.
"We've learned a lot from the adult vaccine, but we can't make assumptions based on adult studies," Dr. Martin said. "That's why we have to specifically look at children. Does that same vaccine protect children? Is it safe to give and gather information so we can move forward?"
Doctor Martin hopes Moderna's trials can provide shots in the arms of young children by "early 2022." So far, she says, initial indications from the trials show the side effects doctors are seeing in child trials is similar to what they saw in adults.