Johnson & Johnson has expanded a clinical trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine to include adolescents 12 to 17 years old, the drugmaker announced Friday.
The ongoing, placebo-controlled trial was initially designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the shots for people ages 18 and older.
The company now plans to test its vaccine in “a small number” of 16- and 17-year-olds before expanding it to a larger pool of younger volunteers, according to a news release.
“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,” Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine was the third to receive emergency use authorization. Unlike Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s shots requires only one jab to be effective.
As part of the extended trial, the New Jersey-based drugmaker also plans to evaluate different dose levels and vaccination schedules, including two-and three-month intervals between shots.
The company is currently enrolling teenage participants in Spain and the U.K., with additional enrollment opening up “shortly” in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands and the U.S., according to the release.
Friday’s announcement comes days after Johnson & Johnson revealed that 15 million doses of its vaccine were spoiled at a Baltimore facility several weeks ago. The shots were ruined after workers accidentally mixed up some of the ingredients with those of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The incident was not expected to affect current shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
As of Friday morning, more than 56 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated. Nearly 100 million have received at least one shot, according to data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.