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‘Trust the science’: OU College of Medicine professor enters child in COVID-19 vaccination trial, stresses benefits

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Shauna Lawlis, an OU College of Medicine assistant professor who specializes in adolescent medicine, discusses why she enrolled her son in a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial during OU Health live stream, Nov. 3. 

An OU College of Medicine assistant professor said she signed her 12-month-old up for a Moderna vaccine trial to protect him from severe COVID-19 symptoms in a Wednesday afternoon OU Health live stream.

Shauna Lawlis, who specializes in adolescent medicine, said her son Rhys joined the Lynn Health Science Institute’s Moderna trial a few weeks ago. Rhys received his first dose alongside other children, ranging from six-month-olds to five-year-olds, and will return in a few weeks to receive his second dose.

The trial is randomized, Lawlis said, meaning Rhys has a 75 percent chance of receiving a Moderna vaccination instead of a placebo shot. Lynn Institute officials will eventually unblind the trial. 

An emergency use authorization of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is currently approved by the FDA. The Pfizer vaccine is FDA approved and the vaccine recently received an emergency use authorization from the FDA for children ages five to 11.

Lawlis and her husband are both fully vaccinated alongside their immediate family members. She said she chose to sign her son up for the Moderna trial because it was the only one available in Oklahoma City and she wanted her son vaccinated as soon as possible.

The difficulties of raising a child during the COVID-19 pandemic have been immense, Lawlis said, as she found out she was pregnant only two weeks before “the world shut down.” She said it’s hard limiting Rhys’ access to the world to prevent him from getting exposed.  

“There’s a lot of people that aren’t vaccinated in Oklahoma and around the country, so I worry about taking him to the grocery store,” Lawlis said. “He’s too young to wear a mask, and kids are into everything, so I worry about him getting exposed and him getting ill. So, I’ve been wanting him to have some sort of protection." 

Although, as a mother, it was difficult to watch her 12-month-old get his blood drawn and stuck with a needle, she said children receive various vaccines during their lifetimes, and he is about to go in for his yearly check-up anyway. She said because she grew up with a dad who worked in biotechnology, science has always been an integral part of her life. In signing Rhys up for this study, she chose to “trust the science.”

“I grew up hearing about clinical trials and about the development of medications like this,” Lawlis said. “I believe it was actually biotechnology that helped develop the various vaccines and sort of the newer platform of vaccines. But it's been in the works for decades because it is based on other science that they have used in the past. And then also being a doctor and being around colleagues who had a lot of experience with it and we could read the papers on it and really understand it. It made a lot of sense to me.”

Lawlis said Rhys had no adverse reactions to the shot. She also said because the majority of her inner circle are physicians, she hasn’t had anyone question her decision to enroll her son in the Moderna trial.  

As OU pediatricians and primary care providers await Pfizer vaccine doses for children ages five to 11 from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Lawlis said she encourages anyone eligible to sign up for the vaccine to do so as soon as they can. 

“Adolescents have felt really isolated and pretty depressed and anxious during the past couple of years because of being stuck at home with COVID,” Lawlis said. “The more protection they can get and cautiously start to leave their houses, the better they are feeling. I feel that a lot of them are feeling less isolated from having the vaccine and being able to see their friends more.” 

News managing editor

Jillian Taylor is a journalism junior and news managing editor at The Daily. Previously, she served as a summer editor-in-chief, assistant news managing editor, news editor, senior culture reporter and senior news reporter.

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