LatestModerna Expands Trial Enrollment for Children

Black youth say they're proud to have been a part of the last moderna trial

Moderna Inc is nearly doubling its enrollment for a clinical trial of their Covid vaccine for children. Moderna’s study seeks participation from 13,275 children ages 6 months up to 12 years old, according to a listing at clinicaltrials.gov. Previously, the Massachusetts-based company announced it was only enrolling 7,000 children.

Anthony and Alanna Galloway allowed their two children to participate in the moderna vaccination trial this summer, months ahead of the rollout of the vaccination for children ages 5-11. Each participant was given a shot but as in all clinical trials no one knew who got the real vaccine and who received a placebo.

We heard about the Moderna trial from a friend who was enrolling her own children. We had about enough of waiting and the trial allowed for high probability that our kids would be in the vaccinated group at this stage of testing. They had already confirmed that it was safe, they were just trying to figure out dosing.  We left it up to our kiddos ultimately but knew they were scared not only for their own health, but spreading it to their younger cousins who they were hoping to see along with the older family members. So we knew they would want in,” says Anthony Galloway, Pastor of Saint Mark’s A.M.E in Duluth Minnesota.
Anthony says his family was in close proximity to, too many covid related deaths. With a close cousin that is a traveling covid nurse who saw death daily to his own hospice outreach work as a Pastor, the Galloways were committed to doing everything in the power to not get Covid-19.
“We still don’t know the full extent of Covid on the body longterm and we made a pact as a family to do what we could to not get or spread this disease.”
Anthony and Alanna’s children, 10 and 11-years-old,  didn’t have the typical response that one might expect. The moderna clinical trial wasn’t something they were afraid to participate in. They were excited; to ask questions about the virus, to better understand the science behind the vaccine and to speak directly to scientist who could peel back the layers of misinformation out there.
What we underestimated, however, is how much our kids would feel a sense of honor from this. They felt it was a historic contribution to be one of the kids who helped doctors figure out how to protect other kids. We know because they low key slid it into every conversation they could! We also noticed their anxiety decreased and when the vaccine was made available.”
That hasn’t been the case for majority of children however. Dr. Jazlynn Paige, licensed school psychologist says in fact since the pandemic it’s more normal to see children with heightened anxiety. The AAP, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health, citing the serious toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on top of existing challenges. A reality Dr. Paige sees play out every day.

“A lot of times students found their safe spaces at school. And so if you think about those students who weren’t allowed to be at school for all of that time, the trauma, maybe even the lack of food or shelter, things like that… so then now that they’re able to be at school, it’s a totally different environment environment for them and it’s basically like starting over with children who hav behavioral issues. You have to reteach them, like this is school, so this is what we have to do here. You know, teaching the the rules or the expectations in the classroom, in the school, even re-teaching things that they should have already learned. And a lot of that is happening academically, students are behind and and the researchers are saying, you know, it may take another two years for students to catch up.”

Dr. Paige says there was already a shortage of mental health services in schools especially when you double down on them being culturally specific. That is now compounded with an increase in demand resulting in a major “deficit of resources for mental health services for children”. In addition to the shortage of mental health resources in schools a significant amount of schools are combatting teacher shortages simultaneously.

When you have staff shortage and then a staff member gets sick, they need to get tested. You know, this may be a two to three day process for someone to even find out if they even have it. So if you think about that waiting times, who’s fulfilling that position when we’re already short? So now we don’t have subs and now then you have a student who was left without that support that they would normally have, which causes behavior concerns. Yeah, it was like literally one day after the other. So that’s definitely an issue at the schools I contract with.”

When Anthony and Alanna were notified about a covid outbreak at their children’s school many of their children’s classmates were having to quarantine during the outbreaks at their school but their own children didn’t, because they were made aware that they were fully vaccinated when Moderna unblinded the study. This was still before the vaccine was made available for children ages 5-11. 

The challenge we have now is that vaccine hesitancy, despite our long history of vaccines working which is often not part of the discourse, is causing continued spread amongst the unvaccinated allowing the virus to morph. This works counter to our efforts to eradicate it. We learned this, along with our kids, because of all of the information we learned and studied as part of the trial.”
15-year-old Elijah Stewart and his 13-year-old sister Londyn are among those children who are not vaccinated despite being eligible. When asking their mother Danielle why she and their father have chosen to not get them vaccinated yet she said it is because of underlying health issues. “My daughter is extremely asthmatic, so we are concerned of how her body might react to the vaccine. “
With the new covid variant omicron spreading fast, the future is still uncertain but no matter how long it is before the pandemic is fully over Dr. Paige says it’s time to start prioritizing the mental health of our youth.

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