PROFILE: COVID-19 Vaccine Research Team

Over the last year, the Emory Children’s Center — Vaccine Research Clinic (ECC-VRC), which includes the Emory Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit (VTEU), led by Dr. Evan Anderson, played a critical role in the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine trials. The ECC-VRC’s dedication over the past year led to their recognition by the Department of Pediatrics with the 2021 “Rising to the Occasion” award.

The VTEU conducted the Pfizer pediatric and Moderna Kid-COVE Phase II—III studies. These ongoing studies continue to enroll children from 6 months through 11 years. The ECC-VRC has been integral to both the blinded and unblinded portions, as well as key components related to dosage selection and vaccine efficacy. 

This fall, Pfizer obtained FDA emergency use authorization for the 5-11 age range, and Moderna recently released data on their vaccine for 6-11 year old children.

As the pandemic continues, the VTEU faces the challenge of managing many different trials, including the Moderna and Janssen Phase 3 adult studies, the Moderna Phase 1 study, and the Mix ‘n Match booster study, in addition to the aforementioned pediatric studies. One of the biggest challenges, for the ECC-VRC is the rapid turnaround needed during the pandemic. Through long hours, days, nights, and weekends, the ECC-VRC team dedicated most of the past 2 years to fighting COVID.

Their hard work is evident in the continued success of these clinical trials. Dr. Anderson said that “seeing children (including my own) that are 5-11 years of age able to receive this vaccine is really rewarding.” Echoing Dr. Anderson’s sentiments, Clinical Trials Director Laila Hussaini, MPH, said, “one of the most rewarding parts of the trial is to see the excitement and willingness of the kids . . . The shear enthusiasm of the participants was enough to show us that adults and kids can make a difference during the pandemic.”

One day, the team hopes to return to their pre-pandemic work that includes RSV and influenza vaccines in children. For now, the VTEU team will continue their COVID work to ensure a greater understanding of pediatric response to vaccination in the months and years ahead. §