My 6 Year Old Is In a COVID Vaccine Trial — Here’s Our Experience
Nov 19, 2021

by Robyn Correll

It’s been a long pandemic. Like a lot of parents of young children, we’ve skipped birthday parties, long-awaited trips, and family gatherings to protect our kids from COVID — only to worry about how those decisions would affect their social development and mental health. The past 20 months have felt like a series of impossible choices. So when we got a call inviting our 6-year-old son to participate in a pediatric COVID vaccine trial, we jumped at the chance. And believe it or not, so did he.

Young boy in gray shirt signs consent form for a pediatric COVID vaccine trial

My 6-year-old son, signing his name to enroll in the pediatric COVID vaccine trial (and yes, I signed too!).

Why did you choose to enroll your child in a clinical trial? 

We had a lot of reasons for seeking out the trial. The two biggest ones were:

  • We wanted him to be protected from COVID as soon as possible. We knew most kids generally recover fine from COVID, but not everyone does. Just like grownups, kids can get long COVID, develop serious complications, or worse. We just didn’t want to take that chance.
  • We wanted all kids to be protected as soon as possible. Kids can’t get vaccinated until these clinical trials happen. And these studies can’t be done unless families volunteer to participate. Not all families are in a position to be able to do that, but we were. So we did.  And our 6 year old thinks it’s pretty cool he got to do something that went on to help hundreds of thousands of other kids get protected from COVID.
How did you talk to your child about the trial? 

We always try to make vaccination days fun in our family. So while my son doesn’t love getting vaccines, he also doesn’t hate it. What he does love is science. So when we told him there was a chance he could participate in a real, live scientific study and meet a Real Scientist, he lit up.

We talked about what the cool parts of the trial would be (i.e. getting to be part of the science, possibly getting the vaccine earlier than expected, helping other kids get vaccinated too). We talked about what the not-so-fun parts would be (it might hurt, he might feel a little sick after, it meant a swab up his nose). And we told him that while we thought it would be a great opportunity, it was ultimately his call.

He had some questions like “Would it feel like getting a flu shot?” (Probably.) And “Could we get donuts after?” (Definitely). In the end, he was a little nervous but said he wanted to do it.

Have you read:

Were you worried about side effects? 

A little —at least at first. But by the time he enrolled in the trial, the vaccine had already been safely given to millions of teens and adults. So we felt pretty confident that it would be safe for our son too.

The biggest concern we had was about myocarditis, a rare heart issue seen in some teens and young adults after getting the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine. But we felt better once we found out how rare it was after vaccination (and how much more common it is for people who get COVID, compared to those who don’t).

Folks at the clinical trial site were very open about the potential risks of the vaccine and explained them to both me and my son in clear, easy-to-understand terms.

Did your child get the vaccine? 
blonde boy smiling in a blue mask after getting a COVID vaccine

My son after getting his COVID vaccine at the clinical trial site.

Not originally. Like all vaccine trials, some kids get the vaccine, and some don’t. Generally, these studies are blinded, meaning that the participants don’t know which group they’re in.

When the FDA authorized the vaccine for kids ages 5-11, the pediatric COVID vaccine trial was “unblinded” and they told us our son got the placebo. They invited him to switch to the vaccination group in the trial, so we did.

What side effects did your child experience?

Thankfully, next to none. We suspected he originally received the placebo because he didn’t feel any different after the first two shots.

But even after getting the real vaccine, he complained mostly of a slightly sore arm. He’s only had one dose of the vaccine so far (he’ll get the next dose in a few weeks), but he’s feeling well – the same energetic kid looking forward to being able to go to the science museum again.

Would you do it again?

In a heartbeat. COVID has taken so much from our kids. As tough as this pandemic has been on us parents, it’s been pretty tough on them too. I’m so grateful he got the chance to participate in the study and proud of him for sticking with it. Plus, getting to meet a Real Scientist? — I know that’s something he’ll remember forever.

Robyn Correll, MPH, CHWI, is a public health professional, mom of two, and consultant with Vaccinate Your Family. 

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