ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico will soon be part of a national effort to test the COVID vaccine on young children. UNM Hospital has been picked to participate in the pediatric trial for the Moderna vaccine, according to hospital officials.

Moderna is working to enroll more than 6,700 children in the U.S. and Canada for the clinical trials. KRQE News 13 spoke with the doctor who would be behind the study at UNMH for kids ages six months to 12 years old.

“Being able to bring this trial to New Mexico, I think, is very exciting for us,” said Dr. Walter Dehority, UNM Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases. “We reached out to try to become a study site.”

Officials say it’s too soon to know how many kids would be needed for this study, but they should have a better idea in a few weeks. “We have to finish up some of the red tape and the enrollment’s going to go very slowly initially,” Dr. Dehority stated. “But hopefully, as we get into the late spring or summer, we’ll be able to get going at a pretty steady basis with this.”

It was on Wednesday that Pfizer announced its vaccine is 100 percent effective in preventing infection in kids ages 12 to 15 following a study of nearly 2,300 kids.

Dr. Dehority says this testing of even younger children is needed to see if they should be getting the vaccine at an early age when they get other immunizations. “Not every child does well with COVID,” he explained. “Here at UNM, we’ve had four to five kids a day in the hospital with COVID who really maybe wouldn’t have had to be there with an effective childhood vaccine.”

He adds that vaccinating children is necessary to help our state reach herd immunity. He’s proud that UNMH would be helping lead this effort, and that families can have all of their questions about the trial answered during their enrollment. “We have a really diverse state and so being able to have those New Mexicans participate in this trial is reassuring,” Dr. Dehority added.

Officials say UNM will be working to find interested families over social media and other advertisements, and in the new few weeks, should have a better idea of when the study could start. Then, the length of the study will depend on how quickly UNMH can get people to enroll.

The state’s website shows more than 10,000 COVID cases have been New Mexico children, ranging from newborns to 9-year-olds.