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Sofia Bernardo, 13

I was scared and confused: school was cancelled because of a virus and it felt like all my hard work was going down the drain. In March 2020, I was in science class at school working with my small group on a climate change friendly building design for our school’s open house, which was scheduled to take place the following week. Just when our project was about ready to show at the open house, we had to suddenly go home and shelter in place. We never got to finish that project. It was a really hard day.

I want vaccines for children to be tested and approved so we can get back to school and see friends and family. It's been clear that the best memories don't happen via zoom or apart, they happen when we are together. It makes us realize we take our schooling, friends and our family's presence for granted. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of this pandemic. Although I like spending time by myself sometimes, I miss my friends. The presence of another human body near me. I miss sleepovers, playdates, parties, celebrating the birth of a new cousin and weddings. I hope for a day when we can all go back to school, and I can actually meet my teachers in person, walk to my classrooms and sit down and be able to work on a project with a partner and feel safe.

I’m proud of those who've done their part in the Pandemic, including  social distancing, wearing masks, staying home if they feel sick and being really flexible in a tough year. I am grateful for the essential workers and first responders. My cousin worked as an ICU nurse with Covid patients early in the pandemic. She and her friends are real heroes. In a way participating in the clinical trial is identical to a Random Act of Kindness. Because in a Random Acts of Kindness the small acts alone aren't a big deal, but when you share them and inspire others to join you they can make a big impact on the world. This is similar to being a clinical trial participant, because in the trials they need over 3,000 kids. You can put a label on which age group data is more important, but at the end of the day, it's each individual person in the study that is valuable, because they actually make a difference contributing to our world, whether they are 11 or 40. I want to do my part to help end the Pandemic by participating in a clinical trial for a covid vaccine - that’s my Random Act of Kindness.

My Experience in the Clinic

Ironically, in our science class we are learning about the science behind the mRNA vaccines. I am very fortunate to know the science of what is being injected into my body. And it's very fascinating to me how the cells react, specifically to the vaccine. The mRNA protein directs cells to produce the virus spike protein, provoking an immune response to that unknown protein. The body has to get used to this spike protein in order to know what to do if it encounters it in the future. My parents found out about the trial and asked me if I wanted to participate. They gave me the choice, and I said, yes!

The first visit was long - it was over four hours. They asked me lots of questions, took blood samples and ran other medical tests.

After the first shot my arm got sore after the first three hours and it swelled up about 2cm. My arm felt like it was dead by night time, but it wasn’t so painful that I needed Tylenol. There were surveys I had to fill out every day for data collection —the injection site, temperature and general health. After a few days my arm felt perfectly normal and I could exercise and have fun again.

The second visit was exciting and scary. Scary because I heard that people got more side effects after the second shot. I answered lots of questions, underwent a few tests and received another shot. I had the same very sore arm and a low grade 99.5 fever later that night. I took two naps the next day.

I felt back to normal after just a few days and could move my arm around. I’m looking forward to spending time with my grandma and seeing my friends.

Honestly, I’m glad that I did it. It feels good to contribute to science and to humanity. All the kids in this study did one big random act of kindness—taking a personal risk to help others. I’m glad to be a part of ending the pandemic. There are about one billion adolescents on the planet according to UNICEF. I hope by participating in the trial that kids like me will be able to see their grandparents and friends again and go to school safely.

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