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Some Colorado teens now eligible for COVID vaccines; meet 4 girls who helped make that possible

In Colorado, 16 and 17-year-olds are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. They can thank a group of other teenagers who volunteered for clinical trials last year.

COLORADO, USA — On Friday, Colorado opened up eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all Coloradans, ages 16 and older.

For the first time, all 16 and 17-year-olds can get in line for the Pfizer vaccine.

RELATED: General public in Colorado eligible for vaccine April 2

RELATED: FAQs: How and where to find a COVID vaccine in Colorado

Last fall, the Lynn Institute of Denver ran a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial focused specifically on those teenagers.

“We were contracted to enroll about 10 kids, we ended up enrolling 25,” said Kelly Radin, the director of clinical trials at the site. 

The facility was already conducting trials with adults. Radin said she wasn’t sure what to expect with teenagers.

“I didn’t know how kids would react to wanting to do a clinical trial," she said. "I was pleasantly surprised to see their enthusiasm.”

Radin said the trial for 16 and 17-year-olds mirrored the adult trials, with the only difference being the teenagers needed additional consent from their parents. Just like the adults, they received two doses of the vaccines, three weeks apart, and also participated in additional testing, blood work and kept diaries to track any potential symptoms.

“This is an unknown and unprecedented time and I applaud all the kids that volunteered for this study,” Radin said.

RELATED: Pfizer begins COVID-19 vaccine trial for children as young as 6 months

A group of friends at Cherry Creek High School decided, together, to all participate in the Lynn Institute trial.

Stella Willoughby

Age: 17

Credit: KUSA
Stella Willoughby

Why did you want to join the trial?

"Just being able to see my friends and family again," she said. "I hate being alone, I think it's been really nice to see my friends and family, get a step back to normal.

"All the quarantines were really hard for all of us. We’re all super social people, it was hard to be by yourself."

Stella's mother was the parent who first found the vaccine trial, and contacted other parents about the idea. When Stella signed up, she originally received the placebo shot. For her participation in the trial, she received the real COVID-19 vaccine a few weeks later.

Ruby Silverman

Age: 17

Credit: KUSA
Ruby Silverman

Why did you want to join the trial?

“I thought was going to be really cool to say we were a part of history, that this was going to be groundbreaking and we had a chance to be a part of it," she said. "In 10-20 years I’ll be able to tell my family I did this when I was [a teenager] and that was really cool to me.”

Credit: KUSA
Ruby Silverman gets her COVID-19 vaccine.

Ruby joined the trial with her twin sister, Peri. The sisters said they remember experiencing different symptoms after their shots and wondering if only one of them received the real vaccine. 

They were right – Ruby received the real COVID-19 vaccine. Peri originally received the placebo.

Peri Silverman

Age: 17

Credit: KUSA
Peri Silverman

Why did you want to join the trial?

“Last year, March 2020 was awful," she said. "I think if I could do something to get back to normal, to see people without worrying if I was exposed, to be able to go to school and not worry about being quarantined was – enough for me.”

Peri originally received the placebo shot. For her participation in the trial, she received the real COVID-19 vaccine a few weeks later.

Lana Ades

Age: 17

Credit: KUSA
Lana Ades

Why did you want to join the trial?

“I think a lot of the incentives were being able to hopefully get vaccinated," she said. "There was the possibility of you might get the placebo, you might get the real shot. But being able to take part in something really special, unique and an experience to tell my kids about someday. And when I found out a bunch of my friends were doing it, that’s a really cool experience for us to go through together, and be able to talk about with each other.”

Lana received the real COVID-19 vaccine during the trial.

Credit: KUSA
The friends are all juniors at Cherry Creek High School

The four girls have known each other for several years, through school, dancing and family connections. Now that they’re all fully vaccinated, they said there’s less stress when getting together as friends.

“Before [the vaccine], I felt a really big responsibility, just for everyone around me,” Lana said. “I would feel guilty if I were to get anyone quarantined, you just never know what people have going on with their lives, who they have with them at their home. You want to be really responsible and respectful of everyone else. And so for me, [the vaccine] kind of helped relieve some of that pressure. Like, I’m not going to get anyone else sick. I’m not going to put anyone else in a really hard situation.”

“A huge sigh of relief to know that we had something that could help to get everyone back to normal,” said Ruby Silverman.

“I kept my circle pretty small,”  added her sister, Peri. “So once I was fully vaccinated that was a really big relief for me. I was able to start seeing more people and I could go to school and not worry about if I was getting quarantined.”

Trial participants committed to ongoing antibody testing for two years after the initial vaccine.

"We could not have done this without them," said Radin. "Now they’re moving into [trials for] younger kids also because it's been found safe and effective in 16 and 17-year-olds. We look forward to having some kind of normalcy in our lives again."

Trial participants also received compensation, which totaled a few hundred dollars over the course of their trial. The four girls said they hope to spend their money on concert tickets at Red Rocks this summer.

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