Vaccine Work to End a Pandemic

For more than 50 years, Cincinnati Children’s has been on the forefront of vaccine development. From polio to rotavirus, we've worked hard to eliminate infectious diseases. And that work has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve participated in 11 COVID-19 vaccine trials, including the one that led to the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11. Leading that charge were Grant Paulsen, MD, a pediatric infectious disease doctor, and Robert Frenck, MD, director of our Vaccine Research Center. They co-authored a study published last November in the New England Journal of Medicine detailing the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for young children.

“Without effective COVID-19 vaccines for this age group, children could potentially become ongoing reservoirs of infection and sources of newly emerging variants,” they wrote. 
Now our team is researching a lower dose of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 4 and younger. And in another trial, Paul Spearman, MD, director of our Division of Infectious Diseases, is principal investigator of a study using a nasal spray. We’re one of three sites in the nation enrolling adult volunteers to evaluate its safety and efficacy.

If proven effective, the nasal spray could be a game-changer. Not only does it have the potential to halt the virus at its point of entry and prevent further spread of the disease, but by eliminating the need for needles, it would work wonders to reduce anxiety around receiving the vaccine.

A New Horizon for Opioid Research

Our nation has been plagued with addiction, homelessness and accidental overdose deaths—all due to the opioid epidemic. To address this decades-old health crisis, Cincinnati Children's is leading a study with 25 other institutions to determine its impact on infants and children across diverse regions and demographics.

We were recently awarded an $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research and observe hundreds of both drug-exposed and non-drug-exposed children from birth through early childhood so we can better understand the early environmental effects. 

Stephanie Merhar, MD, MS, neonatologist in our Perinatal Institute, will lead as principal investigator for the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study. In collaboration with researchers at the University of Cincinnati, her team will work to identify the propensity for future substance abuse, mental disorders and other developmental concerns for babies exposed to opioids. 

“This study will help us to understand how exposures to drugs before and after birth, as well as other environmental factors, affect brain development and developmental milestones,” says Dr. Merhar. “Ultimately, the findings from this study will allow us to provide better care to mothers and their children.”

As a trusted leader in research innovation, Cincinnati Children’s is among the top two NIH grant recipients in the nation. And we’re dedicated to pursuing new discoveries that will help all children grow up happy, healthy and reaching their full potential.