As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration extends Pfizer’s emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, parents’ ears are perking up.
Adolescents have been in several trials for months now, and companies like Moderna may get the green light sometime soon.
Denise Burgos and her 15-year-old daughter, Anita, wanted to be at the forefront of that progress.
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Burgos, a Dallas-area emergency room physician, has personally watched COVID-19 atrocities unfold over the past year.
“I got to see firsthand how bad it could get, and it was a very anxiety-provoking year. I was ready to get everyone I love vaccinated, and I knew I wanted my kids to be vaccinated too,” Burgos said.
She wasn’t alone in that goal.
“I have a lot of physician friends, a lot of physician mom friends, and we were constantly talking about this, and we all really made a push to find vaccine trials and to get our kids into them,” Burgos said.
Burgos said she wasn’t without concern, and she delved into any research she could find on the vaccine.
“I was doing my best to read as much as I could and talk with my friends who are pediatricians: my best friend is an OB, my friends in immunology, my friends in biochemistry,” she said.
Once Burgos said she felt comfortable, she enrolled Anita in the Moderna trial for adolescents ages 12-17.
“I was so excited,” Anita said. “My whole family was getting vaccinated, and I felt like I was the only one who didn’t get this new exciting window to our old life.”
In February, Burgos’ family jumped at the opportunity to do the trial in San Antonio, where some of their family members live.
“The trial was getting shot number one, seeing how you felt, seeing if you have any reactions, getting blood work. Coming back for shot number two, the same scenario played again and in between a lot of phone calls, telehealth visits,” Burgos said.
In Anita’s trial, 2 out of 3 teens got the actual COVID-19 vaccine. Though Moderna has not informed them yet who got the vaccine or the placebo, the family feels pretty confident.
“I had never been so pleased to see her with a sore arm and a low-grade fever because that really told us we felt strongly she had gotten the real vaccine, not the placebo,” Denise said.
“I was like, ‘I don’t feel so good,’ and (mom) was like, ‘Yes!’” Anita said with a laugh.
Since then, Anita says she has felt great.
“I’m in a lot of physician groups on social media, and there’s a lot of physicians who got their kids in these trials, and really I haven’t seen anyone commenting on bad side effects or difficulties after the trial. Everyone is really, really pleased that our kids are doing well. We are relieved and hopeful,” Burgos said.
Burgos said the anxiety level in their family has since dropped significantly.
“We had a 15-year-old who went from playing basketball on her team while wearing an N-95 mask to a kid who can feel confident going out with groups of friends,” she said.
Burgos says she understands the concerns other parents have and wants to be an example for others to follow.
“I think this is going to open up the world for our kids. This is going to make us all feel better about getting together as families. This is going to decrease COVID transmission in all age groups,” she said.
They’re prepared to continue the trial up to 18 months, as researchers try to figure out how long immunity lasts.
When asked what other kids her age are saying, Anita said, “It’s a lot of mixed emotions. A lot of them don’t think they need the vaccine. They don’t think it’s worth it because they’re kids and have strong immune systems, which is true, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is such a blessing we’ve been given. This is the first thing within the last year that people my age actually have control over. We actually get to do something to make the situation better.”
WATCH: University Health System Pediatrician Dr. Mandie Svatek talks on this video about how children have responded to the vaccine so far, her own daughter’s experience in a drug trial and when even younger children may become eligible for the shot. You can watch the video below: