Duke University's COVID-19 vaccine trial: 12-year-old explains why he's participating

Caleb, a 12-year-old from North Carolina, is one of 2,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 taking part in Duke University's testing of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.


"This is very close and personal," the boy's father, Dr. Richard Chung Director of Adolescent Medicine at Duke Health, said. "Much more so than a lot of other research trials might be."


Dr. Chung and Caleb spoke with WCNC Charlotte anchor Sarah French about the experience. Caleb shared how his dad presented the trial to him and how he decided to participate.

"What mainly motivated me to do it was definitely just the thought of helping other children feel more confident in the vaccine," Caleb replied.


"As a physician, I was pretty favorably leaning towards wanting to enroll him if he was interested," Dr. Chung added. "Caleb thought about it for a day or two and was quickly ... onboard, wanting to participate."


Caleb has seen "some mild headaches and some arm pain around the injection site" since getting the vaccine.

"And some leg pain as well," Caleb added.


But those side effects mean it's working.


Dr. Emmanuel "Chip" Walter Jr. is the Chief Medical Officer at Duke's Human Vaccine Institute who is collecting all the data from the children being tested.


"When you developed an immune response to something, often your body's way of doing that is to have a fever, chills, muscle aches, headache," Dr. Walter explained.


Dr. Walter is testing children ages 12 to 15 years old.


"After we've observed those, that group for a period of time, all that information is sent to the sponsor," Dr. Walter said. "In this case, we're working with the Pfizer vaccine. Then Pfizer will send the data to the FDA for approval.


"I think it was just a really wonderful opportunity, something I thought Caleb would feel empowered by just because he's been going through this pandemic, and for all of us, right, it's a clear and present danger that's just always hovering over us," Dr. Chung said.


If you have a kid who's scared to get shots, Caleb has a message for them.


"If you don't like needles, then just don't look at it," Caleb advised. "That really helps honestly."


"I feel really proud of Caleb, honestly," Dr. Chung added. "It's really a brave thing to participate and a really generous thing. I'm proud of him and all the other kids who are participating."


Walter said he's hopeful this age group can get this vaccine this summer before school starts in the fall.