My Kids Were Guinea Pigs {Our Experience with the COVID Vaccine Trials}

Editor’s Note: This post is written by a local mom sharing her thoughts on what she and her husband decided would be best for their family. We recognize that your thoughts may look different than her thoughts and that is okay. 

Last year, about this time, my sister told me about a vaccine trial for kids. At the time, some people were getting the vaccine (health care workers, elderly people) but I had no idea when I’d be able to get it, much less my three teenage sons. So when I learned that there was a site in Metairie, I immediately filled out the application for the boys, and within a few weeks, we were filling out mountains of paperwork for them to join the Moderna vaccine trial for their age group.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to put them in the trial. My husband and I talked it over, and we decided if their pediatrician thought it was okay, we’d do it. She was very enthusiastic about it and gave them the go-ahead, health-wise (they all deal with asthma to various extents.) We wanted to be able to do something to help other kids get vaccinated against COVID, and maybe in the meantime, at least one or two of them might be lucky enough to get the actual vaccine. (Two-thirds of participants would get the vaccine while the other third would get a placebo. With triplets, we thought the odds were good that two of them would get it.)

I can understand why some people would be hesitant to make their kids “guinea pigs.” But we didn’t feel like we were putting them at any greater risk than getting COVID, and that the potential reward would outweigh any negatives.

Speaking of rewards, you might wonder how I was able to convince my kids that going to a doctor’s office and getting blood draws shots and physical exams would be worth it. I hate to say it, but “it’s for science” wasn’t really a big draw for them. Like most kids (and me!) they dreaded getting their yearly flu shots and other vaccines.

But the prospect of getting $1000 or more over the course of the year was, as well as potentially getting to miss some school every now and again. So it was a pretty easy sell for them.

Every time we go in for a visit, they get a sum deposited onto a debit card. And we’ve been often. It’s nice for me that they have their own money to spend on the things that I might buy them otherwise. (At this point, half of it has probably gone on gum and soccer balls.)

It hasn’t always been easy, though. Last May, when the Pfizer vaccine was approved for their age group, we still didn’t know if they had gotten the vaccine or a placebo. And according to the clinic, we wouldn’t find out until the fall. We considered pulling them out of the trial so they could get vaccinated, but in the end, the powers that be decided to unblind the study so we could find out.


I think the best moment of 2021 was sitting in the vaccine clinic, hearing the doctor say, “I can’t believe it, all three of them got it.” I got teary sitting there, knowing all three of them had been fully vaccinated since mid-March. (And because they were all vaccinated, we were able to keep them in the trial.)

When kids started getting booster shots in January, we started to worry again about their immunity (because, after all, it had been 10 months since they’d been vaccinated) but luckily they got their boosters through the vaccine clinic (cha-ching.)

I have zero regrets about enrolling my kids in a vaccine trial. Of course, that’s easy for me to say. They had no major side effects and were all vaccinated earlier than most kids. But it hasn’t been the easiest road. I’m the one picking them up from school, driving them to the clinic and sitting around during appointments, and making sure they fill out the e-diaries they have to keep. Maybe next time I’ll be the one to sign up for a clinical trial.

Pam Kocke
My name is Pam, and I live in Algiers Point with my husband George and my identical triplets Linus, Oliver, and Miles. I work from home as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic. I enjoy reading and photography and sewing (and blogging!)


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