LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 12, 2021) — Moderna’s KidCOVE trial is currently underway to test the dosage and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 6 months through 11 years old. The University of Kentucky is one of the 90 sites in the U.S. participating in the study, with 200 children from across the Commonwealth enrolled.
UK College of Nursing Professor Stacy Stanifer enrolled her three daughters in the study: Tegan, age 10, and Josie and Piper, age 8. In this Q&A, she emphasizes the significance of gaining access to the vaccine and having the opportunity for her daughters to get vaccinated, while also teaching them the importance of participating in research.
UKNow: Why did you want to enroll them in the trial?
Stanifer: Participating in KidCOVE was a family decision. Each of us recognize that being vaccinated for COVID-19 provides us with the best opportunity to stay healthy and protect others around us. My husband and I got our vaccines as soon as they became available to us, but because of their age, our children had yet been given the opportunity — until this trial came about. When enrollment in KidCOVE opened, I brought it up at the dinner table, and the kids were involved in the decision to enroll. We all recognize what it means to be in a placebo-control trial, so my children know there is a chance they will get the placebo — or "fake shot" as they call it. They also know that by participating in the trial, they are helping all children have the same opportunity by getting us one step closer to having a COVID vaccine available for those under the age of 12.
UKNow: Why do you think it’s important to participate in research?
Stanifer: As a scientist myself, I believe in research. We need volunteers to participate in research in order to gain new understanding and make advances in health care, COVID-19 research being no different. As an oncology nurse, I have witnessed firsthand the importance and benefits of participating in clinical trials. One of the greatest benefits of participating in this trial is having access to a vaccine that currently is not approved for this age group. We also know that although our children may have been given the placebo and may not personally benefit from taking part in research, their participation is helping scientists learn about the safety and efficacy of this vaccine in kids under age 12.
We’ve never lived through a pandemic. My daughters’ world, like all of ours, has been flipped upside down. They’ve adapted well to wearing masks and everything that goes along with social distancing, but like many of us they’ve also made a lot of sacrifices. Sports and vacations have been canceled, school and church have been virtual, and they didn’t see their grandparents or extended family for the better part of a year. We are ready to put COVID behind us and move on, but we can’t do that unless we are all doing our part. We are proud of our children for recognizing that this is an opportunity for them to do their part. It hasn’t always been easy, but overall they’ve learned to adapt and pivot quite well, but we’re all hopeful that this "new normal" won’t last forever. Having vaccines available for all ages will help get us out of this pandemic.
UKNow: What do your children think about it? What is their understanding of what’s involved?
Stanifer: They know that they are participating in a vaccine trial for kids that will help us get over COVID-19. As far as what is involved, we’ve gone over the study procedures with them, and they know there is a chance they’d feel sick after they got their shots. As far as appointments and follow-up, my husband and I keep track of that, and we make them aware a day or so in advance. They also know their participation is voluntary and they can let us know if they want to stop.
My girls would tell you that getting the vaccine would make them feel more protected and being vaccinated helps keep others around them safe too. They would also tell you that their participation helps everyone, and vaccines will help keep them healthy by protecting them against the virus. My oldest daughter wanted me to add that “they (the shots) aren’t that bad, it only hurt a little. Not as bad as you anticipate.”
UKNow: What would you say to parents who are on the fence about both vaccinating and participating in research?
Stanifer: Participating in research is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Talk with the study personnel, talk with trusted health care professionals, read the details, ask questions, and then make an informed decision. The investigators for KidCOVE provided information for us parents, but also information for our children. We took time to read the information and sat down one evening after dinner to read through the information with our kids. We talked about the risks and the benefits, and we answered their questions. We felt comfortable that they knew what participation in the study meant, and then we allowed them to decide if they wanted to participate or not.
If I encountered a parent who is on the fence about vaccinating their child, I’d first ask what concerns they have about the vaccine and address those concerns. Many people have asked me what side effects my daughters experienced following the shots, and in our experience, their side effects have been very mild and have resolved in one or two days. Personally, I would much rather my daughters have sore arms and low-grade fevers than experience everything that goes along with an actual COVID-19 infection. Being vaccinated is their best opportunity to be protected not only from an acute COVID-19 illness, but any long-term effects that may arise as a result of the virus.
KidCOVE is just one of many clinical research studies underway at UK. For more information about clinical trials and how to enroll, visit UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science.
To register for a COVID-19 vaccine (first shot, second shot or booster shot if eligible), go to ukvaccine.org.
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