The AZ HEROES research study of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness and immunity among Arizona essential workers is now expanding to include children ages 4 months to 17 years old.
Tucson, AZ – A University of Arizona research study from the Zuckerman College of Public Health is expanding to include children. First launched in June 2020, the AZ HEROES (Arizona Healthcare, Emergency Response, and Other Essential Workers) study focuses on COVID-19 immunity and vaccine effectiveness among essential workers in Arizona. The new AZ HEROES Kids is an ancillary study to AZ HEROES and is now enrolling children ages 4 months – 17 years old. This announcement comes after the study has received $15M for a second year of funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The AZ HEROES Kids Study seeks to better understand children’s risk for infection with COVID-19, what factors affect the risk of infection among children, and how well the COVID-19 vaccine protects children from SARS-CoV-2 infection and illness. Jeff Burgess, MD, MS, MPH, associate dean for research and a professor at the College of Public Health, leads the AZ HEROES research team.
"This new AZ HEROES Kids study will build on what we have already learned and expand our knowledge of vaccine effectiveness as Arizona youth return to school” says Dr. Burgess, “In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines already approved for 12 to 17 year-old kids, we want to prepare for the time when the vaccines are approved for kids under 12 years so we can gather the best scientific knowledge about how the vaccines work for kids, and which kids are most at risk.”
To participate in the study, participants will conduct a swab test for COVID-19 weekly at home (with the assistance of parents or guardians). In the fall, testing will include influenza. Parents or guardians will also complete monthly surveys about the child and the household, and help their child complete an additional at-home COVID-19 test if they become ill during the study. An optional part of the study includes COVID-19 antibody testing 1-4 times throughout the study, but this is not a requirement for a child to be enrolled.
Lynn Gerald, PhD, MSPH, a leader in pediatric asthma research, will bring her expertise to the AZ HEROES expansion. “It is important to gain a better understanding of COVID-19 in children,” says Dr. Gerald, “This research will help us understand the risk factors, and see how the vaccines work in combination with underlying conditions. The knowledge we gain will help us respond quickly and more effectively when infection does occur in children.”
In addition to Dr. Burgess and Dr. Gerald, the AZ HEROES research team includes: Karen Lutrick, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the College of Medicine – Tucson, Janko Nikolich-Zugich, MD, PhD, head of the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Immunobiology and co-director of the Center on Aging; and Ed Bedrick, PhD, Kate Ellingson, PhD, Joe Gerald, MD, PhD, Purnima Madhivanan, MBBS, PhD, MPH, and Xiaoxiao Sun, PhD, at the Zuckerman College of Public Health.
The AZ HEROES Kids study aims to enroll 1,000 Arizona children as participants. Children are eligible to participate if they are 4 months to 17 years old and can read English or Spanish. If a parent/guardian would like to enroll their child, they can fill out an eligibility screening form on the AZ HEROES website and a staff member will be in contact with them to complete the enrollment process.
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