COVID vaccine

Oak Park Teen Participates in Clinical Trial For Moderna Vaccine

One Chicago doctor believes the city could see approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children between 12 to 15 years old by summer

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

After exclusively testing adults during initial clinical trials, both Pfizer and Moderna have begun to test COVID vaccines on younger individuals, including a suburban teen girl.

Oak Park resident Sarah Kaufman, 15, is a part of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine study in Valparaiso, Indiana.

“My mom found out about [the trial] online and she reached out to them and it turns out they had a spot for me in the trial,” she said.

Moderna hopes to test the vaccine on an estimated 3,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17, the company said.

“It’s pretty cool I think,” Kaufman said. “It’s kinda interesting to see how studies like this work and it’s just cool to be part of it in general.”

Kaufman said she is keeping a log of any side effects from the vaccine and is taking her temperature every day to see if anything changes over time.

“I’ve been feeling pretty normal. I have some seasonal allergies, some things like that, so I have been a little stuffy,” she said. “But I’m not really sure what’s the cause of it.”

The freshman at Oak Park River Forest High School has been part of the 13-month-long study for nearly two weeks and has already received her first shot.

“We don’t know whether she received the vaccine or placebo,” said the 15-year-old's mother Kate Kaufman. “But so far she has no side effects or no issues whatsoever.”

Kate said she’s proud of her daughter for being part of the study to help researchers and other teens get vaccinated sooner.

“Overall I think she really wants to help move this forward and do what she can do and I think it’s been hard for adolescences especially this loss of complete control over their lives,” Kate said. “But I feel this is something she can kinda take back a little bit and feel like she’s doing something to move forward more towards a normal existence.”

While data continues to be collected from the study, in the coming weeks, parents can expect to see more clinical trials conducted on children under the age of 12. NBC 5 learned Lurie Children’s Hospital is getting ready to launch its pediatric vaccine study in a few weeks.

“There’s a lot of things that have to happen first but in the meantime. I think getting a list of potential interested participants is an indication that we’re getting closer,” said Dr. Bill Muller, Lurie Children's Hospital doctor leading the pediatrics research on coronavirus vaccines.

The Chicago hospital created a registry for parents interested in the study.

“Pediatric studies are very challenging relatively to adult studies in the sense that you have to progressively go to younger and younger age groups and often times you have to start at a very low doses and increase them,” Muller explained. “They’re trying to balance the potential side effects of the vaccines with the benefits of the vaccines. Although we anticipate that children will likely respond similar to adults in terms of generating an immune response. We don’t know if they need as much of the vaccine as adults need to get to that level.”

Muller said he believes Chicago could see approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children between 12 and 15 years old by summer. Once Pfizer and Moderna begin their pediatric studies, Muller said a vaccine for children 12 and under could be approved by fall or winter 2021.

“I’m hoping perhaps it will be a smoother roll out than you know what’s happening with the adults,” said parent Laurie Skurow. “But honestly I just envision getting the COVID vaccine, like we get the flu shot—we take them to the doctor and they’ll get their COVID vaccine. That’s really it.”

Skurow, mother of a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, said she doesn't worry about her children contracting COVID-19. However, Skurow said she does worry her son and daughter would give it to someone else unknowingly.

Similar to other parents, Skurow said she is waiting for approval by the federal government, and once the shot is available, she plans to get her kids vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“I trust science. I trust the FDA. I trust vaccines,” she said. “I get my kids vaccinated for the flu, measles, mumps— why wouldn’t I do this?”

Meanwhile, Moderna continues to teens for its COVID-19 vaccine study.

Pfizer has not said when its planning to start its pediatric study. A spokesperson for the company told NBC 5 they are waiting on data from the 12 to 15 age group, which should be ready by summer.

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