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Ft. Mitchell Teen Part of COVID Vaccine Trial Aimed at Younger People

A local teen has volunteered to take part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial for her age group.

The vaccines made available to the public so far have not yet been approved for people under the age of 16.

Grace Mooney, a 14-year old eighth grader at Beechwood in Ft. Mitchell, responded to a call for volunteers ages 12 to 17.

"I thought if I did this, it might help all of us get back to a normal way of life," Grace said. "I think if more people get vaccinated, it will help slow the spread. Maybe by next year, things will be a lot more like normal."

Grace's mother, Laura, a nurse at Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, had heard about the teen trials in an email seeking volunteers, and so she and Grace's dad, Eric, a physical therapist, asked Grace whether she would like to participate. 

Grace was due for a check-up at the pediatrician anyway, so the family discussed the possibility with the doctor, and also with an infectious disease expert at Children's.

Grace said that she was unsure whether her parents' occupations in health care influenced her decision, but conceded that it may have been a consideration. Both her parents have received COVID-19 vaccines because of where they work.

In early February, Grace was taken to New Horizons Clinical Research in Cincinnati for a four-hour appointment where blood was drawn, questions were asked, and then a shot was administered.

As in similar trials, Grace is unsure whether she received the Moderna vaccine or a placebo. Moderna is one of three producers of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in the U.S.

Grace suspects that she received the real thing because her arm swelled and she felt a little discomfort.

"The shot didn't hurt as much as I thought it might," said Grace. "I get a flu shot every year, and it was about like that. Afterwards I felt fine, but my arm was sore when it swelled."

Laura said the reaction reminded her of when Grace got her meningitis vaccine in the sixth grade.  

Grace will keep a journal of her daily temperature, how she feels, and if she has swelling in her arm, she has to note about how severe the swelling is, and how long it lasts.   This will continue for thirteen months. In addition, she will have several telephone conversations, as well as in-person visits where her blood will be tested and her nose will be swabbed.

For this trial, there are three thousand teens like Grace who are participating across the country.

In addition to taking part in this landmark study, Grace is still focusing on school where she prefers math and English. With in-person learning resuming in a full-time capacity, Grace sees a little bit of "normal life" returning already.

Her parents are proud of her participation.

"I told her that it is not always easy being a leader," Laura said. "She doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up, but she has the courage to be what she wants to be."

Grace said that she would recommend stepping up and being part of the solution to her younger brother and all her friends. She said that her friends were all excited for her, and were hoping that she would get the real thing instead of a placebo.

"It is really not too big a deal, being part of the trials," Grace said. "I want to get to a point where we don't have to wear masks and social-distance and be afraid. It does feel good to do something to help the virus go away, or at least be less of a threat."

-Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

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