HOUSTON - Researchers say the only way for us to get on the other side of this pandemic is to get at least 70% of our population vaccinated, that includes babies and young children.
Sixteen-month-old Nathan Galvan is the first toddler to participate in Baylor College of Medicine’s Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial for children under the age of two.
His mother is a transplant surgeon with Baylor College of Medicine. She did all kinds of research, to make sure her beloved son is safe.
"We were inspired by the tens of thousands of adults and adolescents who tested out these vaccines ahead of us, so we understood the risk profile, I understood the science very well! In fact, I worked with some of the more preeminent people in their field, including pediatric disease specialist, Dr. Flor Munoz," says Dr. Thao Galvan.
She also took her role as a mother very seriously.
"My medical background helps, but it certainly didn't take away the concern to have as a young mom, when all you want to do is protect your loved ones. So yes I worried about it, but not as much as I worry about COVID," states Dr. Galvan.
The colleague she mentioned, Dr. Flor Munoz, is the Principal Investigator for the pediatric vaccine trial at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital. She's thrilled that studies are underway for young children.
"It is actually one of the important steps to make sure that we have included everyone who could potentially benefit from a vaccine," says Dr. Munoz.
She says a lot of parents have been reaching out to join the study, but she understands any and all concerns from parents. She wants to clear up misinformation circulating about vaccines.
"This concept of being a guinea pig, unfortunately, is not really well-supported by the type of research that one does. This is not at all what the intention is for the clinical studies. Every single medication, every single vaccine that we use today is something that has been through a clinical investigation process, and the importance of this has been highlighted by this pandemic in how we do need to have these vaccines and how we do need to have a process in place that allows us to understand how to best use these vaccines," explains Dr. Munoz.
She says she would never conduct a study that she believed could possibly hurt children. She reassures families that she believes the COVID vaccine is safe, and she's concentrating on finding out about the right dosing for children. The goal of her study is to help keep young children protected from COVID-19, with the least amount of side effects from it.
Dr. Galvan is proud that her family can help find those answers. She says her son was born into a pandemic and she wants him to know more than this new way of life and at the same time, keep her child safe.
"In the end, I found the benefits far outweigh the risks that we would be taking on, and furthermore, the risk profile is manageable. As a physician who works at Texas Children's, it's something that I can deal with, and I felt like our family had a lot of the privileges and frankly some of the responsibility to be able to take this initiative where others may not have so much comfort with medicine. And so for me, we had a lot of safety, we knew that we were in a safe space. We knew we trusted Dr. Munoz, Baylor, and Texas Children's," says Dr. Galvan.
Dr. Galvan says her son did get a few hives after his vaccine, but no other symptoms. She says he has gotten hives on other occasions, so she doesn't find it surprising or alarming. While many children are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms from COVID-19, doctors believe a vaccine would stop them from spreading it to other family members. Also, researchers say it would help children with an underlying condition, at higher risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.
"We don't have a guarantee of knowing who will go which direction, who will have a very mild illness and who will progress to being more complicated," says Dr. Munoz.
Dr. Galvan is looking forward to more freedom with her son, including possibly finally being able to enroll him in swim class. She hopes to also enroll her three-year-old son in a vaccine trial when one becomes available soon for that age group.
The clinical trials are filling up very quickly and it may be a challenge to add more children, but again, other vaccine trials will be coming up. Dr. Munoz tells us the soonest a vaccine for babies would be available is 6-12 months.
For information on all of Baylor College of Medicine’s COVID trials click here.