By Laura Haefeli

DAVIS (CBS13) — The California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis is working around the clock to develop a childhood vaccine against coronavirus.

The center is using rhesus macaques for their trial. The species of monkey has played a vital role in studying viruses like HIV and Zika. Now, they’ll help find a coronavirus vaccine.

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“We are testing some of the vaccines in infant monkeys. We started these experiments in September. We started with 16 monkeys. They were at that time 3 to 4 months of age,” researcher Koen Van Rompay said.

Van Rompay said that rhesus macaque monkeys have similar immune systems to humans. UC Davis has already given the monkeys two doses of the potential vaccine.

“The preliminary data so far looks very promising,” Van Rompay said.

It’s welcome news for physical education teacher Sammie Clevenger whose young students miss her.

“I saw my kids on Zoom, one of the kids is like, ‘When am I going to see you, Mrs. C?’ I would do anything to see them. At the end of the day, we’re all dying to get back together,” Clevenger said.

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But there is still work to be done. Step one, the vaccine has to work in the monkeys.

“If we see the vaccine is safe and we see that it induces good immune responses, this data can help guide and speed up the start of similar trials in human children and infants,” Van Rompay said.

He predicts a childhood vaccine could be what helps stop the spread of coronavirus.

“There are many children in this country. Even though they don’t usually get sick, they can still transmit the virus to older relatives or school teachers. If we can immunize children we can break the cycle of transmission in the local community,” Van Rompay said.

The UC Davis team says they have been in touch with regulatory agencies in preparation for human trials.

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