Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trials underway in Triangle for teens 14-17

Vaccines are open to everyone now except those under 16. That is why new vaccines trials for adolescents starting up this week here in the Triangle are so important.

While the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine hasn't yet been authorized, the company is now testing it on kids 14 to 17-years-old, in the hopes that it can also be approved for that age group.

It may be one way to get around some of the vaccine hesitancy.

As North Carolina sees slowdown in COVID vaccine sign-ups, health officials work to address remaining hesitancy

One local expert notes that parents who are already vaccinated could then get their younger teens vaccinated too even if their risk of severe illness isn't high.

"The numbers are less than, you know, adult infections and adult hospitalizations and deaths but there are still some," Dr. Nicole Swiner told ABC11 adding, "And there's always that concern about well even if my kid is healthy, you know, can they bring COVID back home."

Dr. Swiner is a family doctor in Durham where those Novavax trials are now underway on 14-to-17 year-olds at the Wake Research facility there. She also works for Wake Research as a community vaccine educator.

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After topping 500,000 vaccinations for the first time during the week of April 5, North Carolina has had back-to-back weeks of declines.



She's trying to overcome vaccine hesitancy, especially in marginalized communities of color.

In past trials, Wake Research has made it a point to recruit people in those communities. It's no different for these trials involving adolescents. "Our kids, you know, are as diverse as we are. So we need as much information with them as we do with adults," said Dr. Swiner.

The fact that Novavax trials are being conducted here isn't the only Triangle connection.

Some of the vaccine is also being manufactured at a plant in Morrisville, where then President Donald Trump visited back in July.

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After topping 500,000 vaccinations for the first time during the week of April 5, North Carolina has had back-to-back weeks of declines.



A Novavax spokesperson tells ABC11 it is now finishing the final stages of the adult trials. The company hopes to have that data soon but won't say when it expects to approach the US Food and Drug Administration to seek the Emergency Use Authorization vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson now have.

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Following a brief pause, the Johnson and Johnson single-dose shot is once again being offered as an option for those still waiting to get vaccinated.



Dr. Swiner's theory is the more, the better.

"There's, you know, still been a lot of questions from my patients when I talk to them about vaccines, which one's the safest one, which one should I get if I'm allergic to certain things, which one's best for me. So I think having more variety is good," she said. And having ones that are approved for younger teens is even better Dr. Swiner said.

She also noted that getting parents to sign their kids up has actually been easier than she anticipated.

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A mom herself, Dr. Nicole Swiner says many parents are enrolling their children in the trials because they know how important the vaccine will be as kids move back to in-person classes, sports, and other activities.

"We don't want them to become vectors and get sick themselves. So it's very important for them also to be vaccinated," said Dr. Swiner.

She also said the Wake Research trials are safe and closely monitored by medical professionals and she notes that parents who allow their kids to participate, are providing an important service to the community.

Each participant is being given $1,400 to compensate them for their time and travel.

Children as young as 6 months old now in COVID-19 vaccine trials
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