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Novavax vaccine trial for teens 12 to 17 now enrolling in Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research says it's one of 75 centers in the country helping get a vaccine for teens.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A new COVID-19 vaccine trial begins this week in Jacksonville. Novavax vaccine trial is enrolling teens ages 12 to 17. 

More than 30% of Americans have rolled up their sleeve and gotten a vaccine, but there hasn’t been an option yet for kids. This trial could change that.

“We believe that this is the next and hopefully the final step of really getting the pandemic under control," said Dr. Michael Koren, Director of Research with the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research.

“This is what’s called a protein therapeutic," Koren explains. 

He says this vaccine uses a genetically engineered spike protein from COVID-19 which helps the immune system identify the bad virus.

“They combine that spike protein with something called an adjuvant," Koren said. "Which is the way the protein is presented to the immune system. By using that combination, a very small quantity or a very small amount of the protein from COVID-19 Is actually presented to our bodies and our bodies know that this is the bad guy.”

Your immune system learns to protect you from that protein when it's exposed to it.

This vaccine is two doses. Enrollment began Monday and Koren says it will probably remain open for two weeks. 

The trial can begin immediately if your child is approved. Any teen involved will have to have parental consent and participants are compensated.

Why take part? Experts say we need herd immunity from COVID-19. The U.S. Census data shows about 22% of our population is under 18.

There is currently no vaccine approved for people under 16.

Gabrielle Kowkabany, 16, is taking part in the Pfizer trial. She learned about the trial through a friend who is immunocompromised.

“I saw it as an opportunity to help protect my friend and to protect the rest of my family," Kowkabany said. "My sister is actually going to enroll in the Novavax study because she is 15.”

Koren says a vaccine for kids is also needed because infections are currently widespread in younger people. Kids may not get severely ill from the virus but they can spread it easily to others.

Participants will be tracked for up to two years. Kowkabany says not all of the check-ups are in person and her experience with the trial has been easy.

Similar to other trials, Koren says this is a blind trial. He says two-thirds of the participants will receive the vaccine and the other third will get a placebo.

Participants will not know which one they received. Eventually, Koren says everyone involved will get the vaccine. 

Koren said Novavax has been studied in Europe, Africa, and South America. He says there is a lot of data on the product, but it does not yet have the authorization that other vaccines have in America.

If you are interested in enrolling, call 904-730-0166 or visit their website.