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Indianapolis middle schooler volunteers for Moderna vaccine trial

Posted at 8:46 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 20:46:21-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Three vaccines are available to millions of Americans in the fight against COVID-19, but none are approved yet for those 15 and younger. One Indianapolis middle schooler is hoping to change that soon.

Maria Beck is your typical 13-year-old. She loves to sing, dance and act.

“And I like to run. I’m starting track this week and I am a big, bubbly person,” Beck said with a smile.

The 13-year-old said the pandemic is tough with school, sports, family and friends, but she is now trying to make a difference.

“Me and 3,000 kids are putting an impact on it,” Beck said. That impact, well it is on COVID-19.

Beck volunteered to be a part of the Moderna vaccine trial with volunteers age 12-17.

“I don’t have any second thoughts about it, I don’t have any shame about it. We’re proud to be a part of it,” Beck’s mom, Joanne Kehoe, said.

The mom of four shared a friend told her about the trial and how her kids were participating.

Kehoe then said she did some research and found Velocity Clinical Research in Cincinnati was still looking for volunteers.

“My friend who was doing it with her kids has a sister who’s a doctor, and her sister said without hesitation she would recommend that they do it, so we thought it was a good chance in helping out and also to getting her on the path to getting her the vaccine,” Kehoe said.

The trial started recruiting back in December, but Beck did not join until last month. Last week, Beck got her “second shot, or not,” as she said.

Kehoe added her daughter will not know if she received the Moderna vaccine or placebo until the trial is over. She said it is a 13-month commitment and a four-hour round-trip drive.

“We have to have faith that we can contribute. And if she can do it, then I feel like we can do it and if we can do it, then anyone else can do it," Kehoe said.

Beck has several more appointments over the next few months with the soonest over spring break. Throughout the process, the Indianapolis teen keeps a diary of symptoms on her phone through an app, which Velocity Clinical Research said is seen only by Moderna.

“I feel like I’m helping the country, the state, the everything to help children get the vaccine and I think it is just a good thing and I knew it was the right decision,” Beck said.

Craig Koch, vice president of business development at Velocity Clinical Research, said the company has been involved in recruiting participants — both adults and adolescents — for these vaccine studies since July of last year. So far, he said it has recruited more than 10,000 volunteers.

“Velocity started enrolling adolescents in the Moderna study in December 2020. To date, Velocity has recruited over 40% of the total participants in Moderna’s US adolescent trial, which needed approx. 3,000 volunteers,” Koch wrote.

Koch said six Velocity Clinical sites are participating in the study, and “over a quarter of the total number of volunteers” are at the Cincinnati site, like Beck.

“Finding a vaccine for COVID has been the most important work we have ever done. When other vaccines that we've worked on have received EUA status in the past, we've felt both a mixture of relief as humans, and satisfaction as professionals. We hope to do the same for the 12-17age cohort,” Koch wrote.