Children Health

Trio of San Antonio siblings enrolled in vaccine study for children as COVID cases drop nationwide

The demanding study requires keeping an electronic diary of the children’s health while attending a series of telemedicine and in-person visits.

SAN ANTONIO — The curiosity of children never wanes; it only grows, especially during a pandemic.

That’s been the case for the Hoelscher kids, who for the past two months have participated in Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine study.

Louisa, 10, and 8-year-old twins Wolfgang and Cecilia expressed willingness to take part when asked by their parents before school kicked off.

The KidCOVE study includes more than 4,000 participants from across the nation.

Participants are administered two shots 28 days apart. While a great number of children are receiving a half-dose version of the Moderna vaccine, others are being injected with the placebo.

It’s unknown at this time whether Louisa, Wolfgang and Cecilia received the half-dose or the placebo. But the expectation is that they’ll know sometime later in the week.

A placebo gives medical researchers a better understanding if the vaccine candidate being studied is effective in preventing COVID-19.

“Wolf, he had like, no reactions at all. Nut me and Cici’s, our arms just swelled up and turned red,” Louisa said.

The study requires consistent logging of symptoms and temperature checks, which are documented on provided iPhones and a booklet engraved with the title “KidCOVE.” Participants and their caregivers must also return to the study site at least six times.

“Definitely a lot of work, because every day we had to go in and do three logs for each child of different questions that they had. I had to take their temperature. I had to track which thermometer went to each child,” said Melissa Hoelscher, the siblings’ mother. 

For parents Joe and Melissa Hoelscher, exploring the idea of enrolling their children in the clinical trial came during a time of uncertainty.

“I started looking into the trials, realizing that was probably the only way I could potentially get my kids vaccinated before school started. I was just worried about them being in a large environment and we didn’t know if masks were going to be mandated or not,” Melissa said.

Joe Hoelscher noted the study has helped their family reconnect during a time when the coronavirus has resulted in the deaths of more than 745,000 in the U.S. and over 71,000 in Texas alone. Nationally since September, coronavirus cases have dropped 50%.  

Pfizer’s vaccine for 5-to-11-year-old kids achieved approval by a Food and Drug Administration panel last week. The Centers for Disease Control is on the verge of reviewing the recommendation and giving the final greenlight.

“This was a good way for us to get our kids back in contact with grandparents and other family members who have health issues and you want to create kind of a bubble around the people that you love,” Joe said.

It’s the shot of hope in many ways for the Hoelscher family, who hopes their contribution to scientific research leads to a brighter future for everyone and a longing to one day live a life post-pandemic.

“I think it’s cool that we can contribute to everybody’s recollection of the great pandemic of 2020 if there’s something positive we’ve done to make a difference in a year that’s been rough,” Joe said.

“We’re really happy and proud because we’re helping so many people and once everyone else gets the vaccine,” Louisa added. “I’m really excited because COVID might end soon and then we’ll be able to not wear masks anymore and play with our friends.”

The FDA is in the process of reviewing Moderna’s vaccine intended for 12-to-17-year-olds, which could be authorized within a few weeks.

Similar approval could happen for the vaccine being researched in this study, intended for 6-to-11-year-old youth, by the end of the year.

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