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Henry Ford Health System to run clinical trial of Moderna vaccine for children

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The Henry Ford Health System will contribute to an ongoing national studying the efficacy of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in children, in a study similar to the one it conducted with adults last year. 

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Chief Clinical Officer, said that the hospital system will begin looking for parents to volunteer children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years old to take part in the study in the coming weeks.

The news came as staff at the Henry Ford Health System continued to deal with an onslaught of COVID-19 cases. Dr. Munkarah said more of the COVID patients being admitted are in their teens and twenties.  

“Patients are asking, why are those people who are being admitted to the hospital as sick as we have seen before?” he said during a virtual press conference. “And our answer is yes, we are seeing patients who are sick and this is why they are being admitted to the hospital.” 

The hospital system expected to admit up to 500 patients with the disease on Thursday alone, and added that 92% of beds are occupied, leading at least one hospital — the one in Macomb — to postpone elective procedures for a period of two days. 

A study by a biostatistician at the University of Berkeley estimated that closing indoor dining, indoor bars, and indoor gyms for two weeks could reduce COVID-related hospitalizations by 16,000 over the next two months, and save as many as 1,700 lives. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said she would consider reinstating restrictions to curb the spread of COVID, but has so far declined to bring back certain policy measures that drew sharp criticism and a lawsuit from many Republican lawmakers. 

Bob Riney, the Chief Operating Officer at Henry Ford, declined to weigh in on renewing statewide policies to address what he called a surge in cases. "What we've chosen to do is make sure the state is aware on a daily basis of the pressures we're feeling, the capacity that we're at, the changes that we're having to make in care,” he said. “We are not shying away from discussing the true exhaustion factor that we believe our caregivers are going through right now.” 

Some of those caregivers have also been infected with the virus themselves. Riney noted that 249 clinical workers in the Henry Ford system were out on leave due to a positive COVID test. A few of those cases were among people who had their first dose of the vaccine, but he said that most were not vaccinated.

"We have had individuals that have not been vaccinated for the same variety of reasons that you see in the general public,” Riney said. “And we are undertaking now a very assertive effort to get any unvaccinated team members vaccinated."

Editor's note: Henry Ford Health System is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.
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