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A healthcare worker loads a syringe with the Covid-19 Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine in Buffalo, West Virginia, on March 26.
A healthcare worker loads a syringe with the Covid-19 Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine in Buffalo, West Virginia, on March 26. Stephen Zenner/Getty Images

US drugmaker Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that it will soon begin vaccinating children as young as 12 in the company’s ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine — and already has begun vaccinating older adolescents.

The Phase 2a study, which began in September 2020, was initially designed to study single-dose and two-dose regimens of the vaccine, at different dose levels and schedules, in healthy adults ages 18 to 55 and 65 and older. The study now includes adolescents.

“In addition to expanding this ongoing study to include adolescents, we are in discussions with health authorities and are hard at work to initiate studies in pregnant women and children in the near future,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, Janssen’s global head of research and development, said in a statement on Friday. Janssen is the vaccine arm of Johnson & Johnson. 

The statement noted that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will initially be tested in a small number of adolescents ages 16 to 17.
Following the review of initial data in this Phase 2a trial, the study then will be expanded to a larger group of younger adolescents.

This trial is currently enrolling participants in Spain and the United Kingdom, and enrollment is expected begin shortly in the United States, the Netherlands and Canada, and then Brazil and Argentina.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on adolescents, not just with the complications of the disease, but with their education, mental health, and wellbeing,” said Dr. Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson’s vice chairman of the executive committee and chief scientific officer.

“It is vital that we develop vaccines for everyone, everywhere, to help combat the spread of the virus with the goal to return to everyday life,” Stoffels said.

This post has been updated to clarify the timeline around the vaccination of teenagers in its trial.

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