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Louisiana youth takes part in COVID vaccine trial

"Parents need to understand children need to vaccinate. Vaccinated children, that's the only way we're going to be able to get herd immunity once it's available."

NEW ORLEANS — Health care workers are among the first on the list who will be getting coronavirus vaccines. That could happen as early as mid-December.

But the research on those vaccines is still ongoing, and now a local site is one of the first to get a study for adolescents.

In November, Pfizer announced its coronavirus vaccine was 95 percent effective. Nearly 44,000 people joined the international study. As many as 240 locals enrolled in that study at Ochsner. They were 18 to 85 years old. Now Ochsner is one of only two dozen U.S. sites to test the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on adolescents.

Nathan Williams is one of the first youths to join the study.

When asked what type of things the pandemic is causing him to miss in high school he responded, “A lot of social interaction. You can't really get very close to your friends,” said Nathan Williams,17 and a junior at Jesuit.

The study is the only one of its type between Lafayette, Louisiana and Florida. Nathan already got the first of the two-dose injection. He and the doctor don't know if he got the real one or placebo.

“I made the decision myself to further the knowledge of like the coronavirus and the vaccine, to help a lot of people,” he said.

He happened to see a flyer about the study when his mom brought one home.

“It makes me and my husband really proud to see that he is capable and willing to do something that’s ultimately going to help a lot of people in the future,” said Melanie Williams, Nathan’s mother.

Dr. Julia Garcia-Diaz said the positive safety and efficacy data from the adult study can help parents with concerns or questions.

She said including children and teens in the study is important.

“Parents need to understand children need to vaccinate. Vaccinated children, that's the only way we're going to be able to get herd immunity once it's available to them,” said Dr. Julia Garcia-Diaz, Director for Clinical Infectious Diseases Research at Ochsner, who is the Principal Investigator on the study.

And there is one more reason Nathan wants to help science. He has a nine-year-old sister with preexisting health needs.

“My little sister is high risk so for me it's more important, that I do stay safe with the whole virus,” said Nathan.

The study is for 12 to 17 year-olds. Appointments are on Saturday to not interfere with school. Call 504-703-8283 or e-mail: covidvaccine@ochsner.org

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