When Halloween came around this year, Allyson Eisenman, 17, knew people her age were going to parties without face coverings, and many of them nixed social distancing recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“That’s probably the worst possible thing you can do right now, and so selfish,” said Eisenman, a junior at Branham High School in San Jose.
A desire to do something more responsible led her to enroll in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 clinical vaccine trial for teens and adolescents currently under way at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center. Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center also is participating.
Enrolling Teens in Santa Clara and Sacramento
The trial at both locations is currently enrolling up to 100 eligible 16- and 17-year-old volunteers and up to 100 12- to 15-year-olds, said Nicola Klein, MD, PhD, director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center and principal investigator for the trial. The Kaiser Permanente trial is part of a larger group of 2,000 adolescents and 600 teens Pfizer and BioNTech will study.
“The point of the study is to understand if these vaccines work in adolescents,” said Dr. Klein. “There hasn’t been anything posted yet on how well these vaccines work in this age group.”
A Family Affair
Eisenman’s mother, Dusta Eisenman, a Kaiser Permanente nurse in Santa Clara, and her father, Jeff Eisenman, are also participating in a Kaiser Permanente trial cohort of 343 adults. That group is part of the larger Pfizer-BioNTech trial of 44,000 adults 18 and older. Pfizer and BioNTech have reported the vaccine is 95% effective in that age group.
“I wanted to do something to help us get out of this pandemic,” Allyson Eisenman said during a news conference about Kaiser Permanente’s role in administering the teen trial. “I do know the health and safety of those around me is important to me and that is what influenced me to participate.”
Neither Eisenman nor Kaiser Permanente researchers know whether she got the vaccine or a placebo, or if she has developed antibodies to fight the virus that causes COVID-19. That is all by design to ensure credibility in comparing the 2 groups.
‘I wanted to do something to help us get out of this pandemic.’
Eisenman’s father, Jeff, said the family is participating out of a sense of civic duty.
“This is our chance to contribute,” he said. “Vaccines work. And someone needs to do it.”
Dr. Klein said participants in the trial get 2 shots, 21 days apart, and they are followed for up to 2 years. Allyson Eisenman said she uses a smartphone application to report symptoms and her temperature each day.
Dr. Klein said that “discussions are under way” about testing the vaccine in children under the age of 12.
“We are really very proud to be a part of this,” Dr. Klein said. “We at the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center have been doing vaccine clinical trials like this for well over 35 years. This is our mission.”