Seven-year-old Russell Bright squeezed his dad’s hand tightly as tests of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine started Monday in children aged 5 through 11.
Children held stuffed animals, played under chairs at Ochsner Medical Center just outside New Orleans, and a few cried. Their temperature and blood pressure was checked, noses swabbed, blood drawn for tests. Finally, they got a shot of either the vaccine or a placebo.
Ochsner is among 98 facilities in 26 states, the District of Columbia, Finland, Poland and Spain where the tests are taking place or planned.
Families won’t know for six months whether their children actually were vaccinated. At that point, children who didn’t get the vaccine will have the chance to do so.
Adam Bright, whose younger son Tucker, 5, also is participating, said it was worth the chance to be a part of the trial. He said he’s confident the Pfizer vaccine is safe, especially after seeing how smoothly vaccinations seem to be going for children aged 12-15.
Russell, wearing a Spiderman mask, said he longs for a summer vacation that can include the water park or a vacation – and then school without masks and social distancing.
Louisiana has one other site participating in these trials, at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport.
There are five in Georgia, including the Atlanta Center for Medical Research and three connected to Emory University, also in Atlanta. The fifth is at Meridian Clinical Research LLC in Macon.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and Palmetto Pediatrics in North Charleston, South Carolina, also are on the list.
Five-year-old Kalil Chaudhry-Halperin held a stuffed toy Bruni — the lizard-like fire spirit in the movie Frozen 2 — as he waited at Ochsner.
He was shy and a bit nervous, but his dad, Jason Halperin, says Kalil was excited, because he knows his parents and his 12-year-old sister have all been vaccinated.
“You know how much we’ve all been through, our entire community, but now we have safe, effective, life-saving vaccines, and it not only helps him but the entire community and anyone vulnerable around our family,” Jason Halperin said. “That’s a great lesson to impart to our children.”