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'I felt scared and also happy': Families share stories after children take part in COVID-19 vaccine trials

Moderna has said their low-dose COVID vaccine is safe and effective for children six to 11 years old.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Key federal health officials on Tuesday endorsed Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses for kids 5 to 11 years old

But before these discussions could happen, thousands of children took part in vaccination trials. Local 5 News spoke with two local families who participated in Moderna's trials.

Six-year-old Iolana described her emotions going into her first dose. 

"I felt scared and also happy," said Iolana."It's because I was going to help other people be safe."

Iolana took part in Phase 2 of the Moderna trials, which tested the efficacy of the dosage in children. Her mother, the daughter of a pharmaceutical chemist, said she relied on her trust of the science behind the vaccine when weighing the risks of the trial. 

"My dad had a saying that I always think about when it comes to stuff like this, and he just said 'Life is a series of risks'," Tanya Keith said. "It's not that if you take the vaccine, it's a risk and if you don't, it's not a risk. You're at risk just walking around in Iowa with 45 percent of the people not fully vaccinated. So you have to look at your total risk profile."

Keith experienced long-haul symptoms of COVID-19 like brain fog and joint inflammation, for roughly a year. She worried her daughter could share her same vulnerabilities to the virus. 

"The risk of her getting sick was much higher than any risk of complication from a vaccine that had already been tested in millions of adults, and had already gone through Phase One testing in kids," Keith said. "It's not just about whether you live or die, it's about what COVID-19 can do to your heart, to your lungs, to your brain. And that's not something that I wanted my kids to ever have to face."

Keith's daughter had a mild fever, but was back to normal within a few days of her dosage. 

Nicole Riggs' nine-year-old also participated in Phase 2 of the Moderna trials. 

"My grandpa actually passed away last spring from COVID, early on in the pandemic," Riggs told Local 5. "So we've been taking things very seriously. And when we heard the news that there were pediatric trials around the country that were available, my husband did some research online and tried to look up whether there were any nearby."

Riggs says her family found a trial happening in Omaha and enrolled their son. 

"It was just pure relief," Riggs said. "We probably are more on the end of the spectrum of being like, more cautious than a lot of people. But with that, the way that COVID has personally touched us, we have experience that other people don't have. We looked at this statistical odds of if they got COVID, what are the odds that they're going to have these things happen, like blood clotting issues, and Myocarditis. That might be side effects of the vaccine, they're so much more likely to have it if they get COVID."

"And so we thought it was, you know, kind of a no-brainer with that."

Like Iolana, Nicole's son had a mild fever after his second dose, but was feeling back to normal within a few days. 

In addition to her son, Nicole's two-year-old daughter is on track to participate in an upcoming Moderna vaccine trial next month.

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