UF Health begins COVID-19 vaccine trials on babies, toddlers

Jacksonville, Fla. — A milestone in the fight against COVID-19 -- UF Health in Jacksonville began its clinical vaccine trials with Moderna for children ages six months-to-two years Wednesday.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases, said a 23-month-old was the first child in that age range in North Florida to receive Moderna’s vaccine. Rathore says UF Health Jacksonville is the only hospital in North Florida participating in the trial. He says currently there are 150 children participating across the United States, and five in Jacksonville.

Frank Rogers has several grandchildren. He told Action News Jax he believes young children need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, too.

“I think it’s a good idea as long as they get the doses right,” Rogers said.

Dr. Rathore says being protected against COVID-19 is critical to communities.

“We especially need to immunize children so they can go to daycare, schools, do those normal activities so we can get our lives back to where it was before the pandemic,” Rathore said.

Rathore is leading the team on Moderna’s clinical vaccine trial for young children.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and this is one of the most important studies, ever, perhaps, that I have done,” he said.

Rathore urges skeptical parents to rethink giving the vaccine to their kids.

“I got my children vaccinated, I love all children but not any more than my own children. The vaccine is safe and effective,” he added.

Meanwhile Rogers agrees.

“I think they need to get it behind us before the next thing like this comes up,” Rogers said.

Dr. Rathore says parents are invited to volunteer their children ages six months to two years for Moderna’s vaccine. Parents can call (904) 427-2673, text (904) 309-1303, or email COVIDstudies@jax.ufl.edu to get involved.

UF Health says it already gives Pfizer’s vaccine to people 12 years and older.