2 local kids in COVID-19 vaccine trials helping pave the way for 12 and under shots

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two local boys are being part of history. 

3-year-old Liam and his 1-year-old brother, Owen, are taking part in a pediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine trial. 

Currently only those 12 and up are eligible to get the vaccine, but kids like Liam and Owen are helping pave the way so other children can get vaccinated in the future.

There are roughly 4,500 children nationwide taking part in the trial.

“We know that this trial could help millions of people across the world access vaccines for kids and that’s really important to us,” said Courtney Finnerty, one of Liam and Owen’s mothers.  

Finnerty said she and her wife thought a lot about enrolling their boys in the trial. She said her doctor assured them the trial would be safe for her kids.

“The kids are too young to really give full consent on their own. How do we feel about putting them in a trial where they are not old enough to decide? But we as parents have to make decisions for them and I’d like to think that if they were older, they would want to be a part of this very safe clinical trial,” Finnerty said. 

The trial is through Rochester Clinical Research. Sarah Geno, a sub investigator, said there are about 60 kids signed up locally. 

“Our patents are doing really well. We’ve had no phone calls with major concerning symptoms, we have had no cases of myocarditis, blood clots, it’s going remarkably smooth,” Geno said. 

Researchers say all the kids are tested before given the vaccine to make sure they are healthy. Blood work is done, vitals are checked, and many consent forms are signed. 

After receiving the vaccine, families have to record any potential symptoms in a diary. 

“We do keep a weekly digital diary where you report symptoms every day for 7 days after they get a vaccine,” Finnerty said.

Doctors also do a lot of following up with the kids after their shots.

“We follow up shortly after a vaccination to do blood work, checking for safety levels, antibody levels and looking for is this vaccine working, is it safe, what it’s doing inside the body,” Geno said. 

Families and researchers are hoping the local families involved in the study will help others feel more comfortable when the vaccine is approved for those under 12. 

“We’re hoping that this is one way to build the faith in science, by getting local volunteers, showing them what it’s all about, education within the community, what it entails, all the safety measures that are put into place,” Geno said. “We’re hoping that it just rebuilds that trust in science that the vaccines that your children routinely get, had to go through a similar process and this isn’t any different.”

Finnerty said she is more concerned with getting covid and spreading it, then with her family getting the vaccine. 

“With all the covid anxiety, I think I have more anxiety of getting and spreading COVID, and people dying from it then I do from giving a vaccine trial a try, which seems safe and has had very, very rare instances of anything bad.”

The plan with the pediatric trial is to collect data and submit it in time for FDA emergency use authorization by September, which is when many kids will return to school. 

Some children in the trial are given a placebo and families and researchers at RCR aren’t aware of which kids receive the real vaccine or not. 

The pediatric covid trial does not have any more openings because researchers say there was a huge interest locally. If you’d like to learn more about studies done by Rochester Clinical Research, click here. 

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