Primates Used in Testing of Juvenile COVID-19 Vaccine Show 'Promising' Results

The California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis, has seen "promising" results in its work to develop a COVID-19 vaccine suitable for children.

Researchers are using rhesus macaques as part of their push to develop a juvenile vaccine for the disease. The monkeys have immune systems similar to human children.

"We are testing some of the vaccines in infant monkeys. We started these experiments in September. We started with 16 monkeys. They were at that time 3 to 4 months of age," researcher Koen Van Rompay told CBS13.

Rhesus macaques have played a key role in research around HIV and the Zika virus. The UC Davis test subjects have already received two doses of a potential vaccine.

"The preliminary data so far looks very promising," Van Rompay said.

"If we see the vaccine is safe and we see that it induces good immune responses, this data can help guide and speed up the start of similar trials in human children and infants," he said.

"There are many children in this country," Van Rompay said. "Even though they don't usually get sick, they can still transmit the virus to older relatives or school teachers. If we can immunize children we can break the cycle of transmission in the local community."

A possible vaccine will have to proceed to human trials before it can be approved for use on children but UC Davis has said they are in contact with U.S. regulatory agencies about their progress.

Distribution of a COVID vaccine for adults has already begun. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has started rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. There have been some difficulties with the rollout, however.

Delays and a small number of allergic reactions have affected the initial phase of vaccination. The ultimate aim is to reach a critical mass of people inoculated so that the vaccine can be as effective as possible.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a second vaccine on Friday. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said his agency "cut through regulatory red tape" to move forward with the Moderna vaccine. However, FDA authorization is not the same as approval. More research will be needed to fully meet the agency's standards.

"We worked quickly based on the urgency of this global pandemic," Hahn said at a press conference announcing the decision. "We have not cut corners."

A Rhesus Macaque in a Quarantine Room
A rhesus macaque, part of the 11 rescued monkeys from research laboratories, looks on from the quarantine room of the future animal shelter 'La Taniere', in Nogent-le-Phaye near Chartres, on March 13, 2019. Infant rhesus macaques could be key to developing a COVID-19 vaccine for children. JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP/Getty Images