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Moderna begins testing COVID-19 vaccine in US adolescents

There has been limited testing so far to explore if any of the experimental coronavirus shots being pushed for adults can also protect children.

WASHINGTON — Moderna announced Thursday that it has started testing its coronavirus vaccine candidate in adolescents. 

The company, which made one of two vaccines expected to be approved soon for adult use in the U.S., said it plans to enroll 3,000 U.S. kids as young as 12 in the trial.

So far, there have only been a handful of attempts around the world to start exploring if any of the experimental coronavirus shots being pushed for adults also can protect children. Some U.S. pediatricians are worried they may not know if any of the shots work for young children in time for the next school year. 

Pfizer, working with Germany’s BioNTech, expanded its COVID-19 vaccine testing to children ages 12 and older in October. On Thursday, Food and Drug Administration advisers will meet to scrutinize Pfizer's data for any red flags or oversights. A final FDA decision and the first Pfizer shots could follow within days. 

In a statement, Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel said they hope to have data in the spring that can support giving the COVID-19 vaccine to children before the start of the 2021 school year.

Each child in the Moderna trial will either receive the COVID-19 candidate or a placebo at both vaccinations. 

When the first shots are approved in the U.S., they're unlikely to be recommended for children. Vaccines can’t be given to kids unless they’ve been tested in their age group -- a major hurdle in efforts to reopen schools and resume more normal activities that are critical to families' well-being.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.