COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Underway For Kids 5 And Younger Parents who have enrolled their children in these studies say the risk is worth it for the greater good.

COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Underway For Kids 5 And Younger

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Children as young as 12 are now getting COVID vaccinations. And some much younger children are also getting shots because they are participating in early clinical trials. If all goes well, widespread distribution for younger kids could begin by this fall. KQED's Lesley McClurg reports on a trial currently underway for the 5 and under set.

LESLEY MCCLURG, BYLINE: Three-year-old Eloise LaCour clutches her dolly as a Stanford University nurse takes her blood pressure.

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #1: Can you tell me what your name is?

ELOISE LACOUR: My name is Eloise.

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #1: We'll use this arm, OK?

MCCLURG: And then he swabs Eloise's delicate upper arm...

ANGELICA LACOUR: Tickle, tickle.

RICHARD BROTHERTON: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #1: Here.

BROTHERTON: Yeah.

LACOUR: Mommy's going to hug you, OK?

MCCLURG: ...And carefully administer the vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #1: How about that?

BROTHERTON: That's it.

LACOUR: Look at you, brave kid.

BROTHERTON: Gosh, you are the bravest.

LACOUR: Yay.

MCCLURG: Eloise barely flinches. In fact, it looks like she might be smiling under her mask. She just received the Pfizer vaccine, one of 144 little kids across the country in trials like this one. I checked in with her parents the next day.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO CALL RING)

MCCLURG: You there?

LACOUR: Perfect.

MCCLURG: And so how did she do yesterday? How did yesterday go?

CHRIS: She was fantastic.

LACOUR: Like, she told us her arm doesn't hurt at all. So she's been great.

MCCLURG: Both parents, Chris and Angelica, say they were nervous about enrolling their only daughter, but they see the experience as a way to give back.

LACOUR: We are so incredibly lucky and fortunate to have a healthy three-year-old child, and we know that there's a lot of other families with kids with vulnerabilities. COVID is potentially life-threatening for those children. And so being part of making this a reality for those families is something that was really meaningful to us.

MCCLURG: Three weeks pass, and then it's time for the second poke. This time, Eloise dresses up as Princess Merida from the Pixar movie "Brave."

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #2: Here we go.

LACOUR: One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #2: See; there it goes.

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #3: There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #2: You did so good.

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE #3: Yeah, look.

MCCLURG: She squirms a little more this time, but still no tears.

LACOUR: So proud of you.

MCCLURG: The next day, Eloise had a little soreness in her arm and...

LACOUR: She had a little bit of a headache last night, solved with a low dose of Tylenol, but otherwise, running around, lots of energy.

MCCLURG: The LaCour family is excited to start planning summer vacations. They're not alone.

YVONNE MALDONADO: We've had lots of families, and they have just been beating down a path to our doorstep. And we are talking about thousands of people.

MCCLURG: Dr. Yvonne Maldonado is the pediatrician leading Stanford's contribution to the Phase 1 trial. She has 10 times more volunteers than she needs. Historically, it's much easier to recruit kids for studies during active disease outbreaks. COVID has killed more than 300 children across the country.

MALDONADO: That actually represents one of the top 10 causes of death in children right now. And there have been thousands of children hospitalized.

MCCLURG: But not everyone is so eager to vaccinate their kids. A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows less than a third of parents say they'll get their little ones vaccinated right away. Hesitancy, especially early on, is not new. It existed way back in the early 1800s when the smallpox vaccine was developed.

MYRON M LEVINE: What has happened more recently, though, is much more sophisticated.

MCCLURG: Dr. Myron M. Levine is a pediatrician and vaccinologist at the University of Maryland. He says the key difference today is how information spreads. The internet and social media platforms provide a ripe environment for anti-vax sentiment.

LEVINE: It is much more complex. It was not like this in the '70s or '80s, truly.

MCCLURG: In the coming months, Levine hopes parents will be swayed by the data from early trials rather than misinformation. He says without vaccinating kids, it will be nearly impossible to stamp out COVID.

LEVINE: You have to have a very, very high level of coverage to keep that bad genie in the bottle.

MCCLURG: Pfizer says it could be ready to distribute pediatric COVID shots as early as September.

For NPR News, I'm Lesley McClurg in San Francisco.

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