The volunteers are among 2,200 children nationwide participating in the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trials.By Amy Wadas

PLEASANT HILLS, Pa. (KDKA) — As the Delta variant continues to spread across the globe, biotech company Novavax is in the process of conducting COVID-19 vaccine trials on children.

The trials are underway at locations across the country, including a doctor’s office in Pleasant Hills. It’s the only spot in Pennsylvania taking part.

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“Mostly just to help so other people can feel safe and so I feel safe about it,” said 16-year-old Ciarra Brown.

The Brownsville teen is one of 12 volunteers at the Preferred Primary Care Physicians in Pleasant Hills. The volunteers are among 2,200 children nationwide participating in the trials for 12- to 17-year-old kids.

“We need trials and stuff like this in order for it to be available to everyone,” said Ciarra’s mother, Kristi Fleming.

When Fleming heard more specifics about Novavax, she felt even better about letting her participate.

“Just knowing this is a little more comparable to some of the vaccines already out there, it made the decision a little easier,” said Fleming.

“This particular vaccine uses similar technology to what most people are familiar with like the hepatitis B vaccine, pertussis vaccine,” said Director of Clinical Research for Preferred Primary Care Physicians Alan Abraham. “The mRNA gives your immune system instructions on how to make immunity, where this one actually gives you the protein already. It does less work for your immune system.”

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Dr. Byrce Palchick is leading the Phase 3 trial in Pleasant Hills.

“It’s two shots three weeks apart. And what happens is a crossover midway through the trial. If you didn’t get the vaccine, you will get it and we will compare the two groups. So everybody gets vaccinated,” said Palchick.

As for side effects?

“To date, there are no reported serious side effects with blood clotting, heart inflammation, especially since this is an adolescent trial,” said Abraham.

Just like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Novavax can also be kept in a refrigerator, which makes it easier for storage and distribution.

“If you want to open up international travel and business, you have to think of this vaccine is easier to store and distribute. So the sooner the rest of the world gets vaccinated, the sooner we can lead a normal life,” said Abraham.

“I have four kids at home. Their biggest goal is to get back to some kind of normalcy. The only way that’s going to happen is if people are vaccinated,” said Fleming.

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The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is around 90 percent effective. Health experts said the adult version is expected to go before the FDA in September. Those trials have been completed. Health experts are hopeful that the vaccine will be approved for 12 to 17 year olds come November.