Baton Rouge COVID-19 vaccine trials begin for children under 12

Local News

"No, I didn't hesitate at all. This has the ability to change her life."

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Clinical trials are now underway for children under 12 and they’re happening right here in the Capital City.

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center conducted its first vaccination trials for those under the age of 12, administering the Moderna vaccine. They hope this study will lead to children being able to fight against the COVID-19 virus.

“More than a quarter of all cases of COVID-19 are in this pediatric population who don’t have the ability to get a vaccine or a vaccine is not approved yet. And so the cases are rising, especially with kids going back to school,” said Pennington Clinical Trials Unit Associate Professor Dr. Daniel Hsia.

What does this study entail? Dr. Hsia said they’ll be observing two groups.

“75 percent of the children are going to get a vaccine and 25 percent are going to get a placebo, and that’s how these clinical trials work. They also get nasal swabs. Besides getting the vaccine and then they get blood tests to see what their antibody responses to the vaccine,” he explained.

40 kids were enrolled, including nine-year-old Megan Pollock. Her mother Ginger Brininstool says she hopes Megan can help make a difference.

“Getting her into it, it gets her vaccinated, and that’s wonderful for her, but it also is one step closer to getting every child under the age of 12 that can medically be vaccinated. It plays a role in getting them vaccinated too,” she said.

She said she jumped at the opportunity to have everyone in her family vaccinated.

“Three out of four of us were vaccinated, and I felt genuinely sad that she was the one that was one of them that wasn’t. And so when the opportunity came for her to be vaccinated, even though it was through a trial, I thought, OK, I’ve got to look into this, she said.

“We really are testing the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine at this Moderna vaccine, and so ultimately we want to get have a vaccine that’s approved in children where which we can be able to help all those kids who are not able to get vaccinated now. And so the future is really to get that approved,” said Dr. Hsia.

Pollock was the first to be given the shot. She and others in the trial are given a half dose of the vaccine.

“She was concerned that it was going to hurt just so badly, but after she got the shot, she looked at me and she was like, ‘that was fine.’ And you just saw this relief come over her face,” said Brininstool.

“Having that extra layer of protection for these children is paramount because we understand that while they may not always get very, very ill, they can absolutely be carriers,” said Dr. Hsia.

If the vaccine gets approved for children, Hsia does foresee some hesitancy.

“I think that even in those people who feel very comfortable getting vaccinated for themselves, we sometimes take a different view as a parent and as a parent myself, weighing all of the different options and the pros and cons,” said Dr. Hsia.

They believe this study will get them one step closer to ending the pandemic.

“It’s been really a privilege to be able to work on a study like this and to know that the data that we collect and the kids that we see in the community through the study are directly being helped,” he said.

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