Protecting children from COVID and getting to herd immunity will depend on children getting vaccinated. But the existing vaccines aren’t designed for most kids. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines can only be given to those 18 and older, and Pfizer’s vaccine can only be given to people ages 16 and older. That’s why volunteers like 15-year-old Zoe Campbell and her 12-year-old sister Esme are testing the safety of Moderna’s vaccine for children in a trial at UMass Medical School in Worcester.

“The vaccine has been something we've been looking forward to since last year. And with the pandemic, a lot of things feel out of our control. So to be part of that process of making the vaccine available for kids I thought was really, really cool,” said Zoe.

Zoe and Esme are among 70 Massachusetts children participating in Moderna's nationwide vaccine test of roughly 3,000 children ages 12 to 17. That group has had relatively low rates of infection, and the CDC calls fatal cases “rare,” but cases can still be severe, and vaccinating children is important for public health since they can also spread the virus in their families and communities.

Just like with the other COVID vaccine trials, the children don’t know if they got the actual vaccine or a placebo. Zoe and Esme say it’s a big topic of conversation at home, but they hope they got the vaccine. Their mother, Dr. Lucy Chie, agrees.

“I'm hopeful that my kids actually got the real dose, of course," said Chie. "But I really hope all kids can get the dose and can really have their childhoods and live their lives more normally again.”

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