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COVID-19 vaccines: a look at the ethics of the clinical research involving children
  1. Laura Cabiedes-Miragaya1,
  2. Inés Galende-Domínguez2
  1. 1 Department of Applied Economics, University of Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain
  2. 2 Community of Madrid Ministry of Health, Directorate General for Research, Education and Documentation, Madrid, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Laura Cabiedes-Miragaya, Department of Applied Economics, University of Oviedo, 33006 Oviedo, Spain; LCABIE{at}


Currently, millions of minors are being inoculated against SARS-CoV-2 in many countries in the world. Ethical concerns about clinical research involving children have barely been addressed in the literature, despite the fact that the paediatric population is particularly vulnerable within this context. Children should be included in the research plans for COVID-19 vaccines. Nevertheless, it is necessary to critically assess to what extent clinical trials are being conducted according to methodological and ethical criteria that allow us to conclude that the results are valid and, in consequence, how far the vaccination plans for children are scientifically justified.

The principal aim of this article is to analyse critically the process of clinical research on COVID-19 vaccines involving children, highlighting the ethical concerns that arise, including the need to stratify the results from older adolescents separately for analysis before proceeding, if further research is warranted, in descending age order. The development of COVID-19 vaccines is examined, with a special look at the participation of children throughout their clinical development, including a review of the clinical trials registered in three international databases. We also offer some additional considerations about the inclusion of minors in vaccination plans. Finally, we conclude with some recommendations, with particular emphasis on the following ethical duties: research in children should be carried out only once the relevant research in adults has previously been conducted; issues that concern children’s needs and rights should be specifically addressed; and, therefore, the highest standards of ethical and scientific quality should be met.

  • minors
  • clinical trial
  • COVID-19
  • ethics- research
  • drug industry

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to developing arguments contained in the paper, researching and writing the manuscript. Conceptualisation and investigation: IG-D, LC-M. Methodology: IG-D. Data curation: LC-M. Writing–original draft: LC-M. Writing–review and editing: LC-M, IG-D. Guarantor: LC-M.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.