These teens, tweens are some of the Covid-19 vaccine trial’s youngest volunteers

When Abhinav, an Ohio seventh grader, learned that a Covid-19 vaccine trial near his hometown was enrolling children, he wanted to participate. But there was one aspect of the study that had him worried.

“I was mostly a bit nervous about the blood draws, because I had one about five years ago, and it wasn’t so comfortable,” Abhinav, 12, said.

Nonetheless, he decided to enlist in the trial, which is run by Pfizer Inc.

“I think that it could really benefit the world, and I think it could also help scientists know more about the coronavirus,” said Abhinav, whose family asked that their last name not be used to protect their privacy.

Abhinav received his first injection at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center last Thursday, making him among the youngest participants in the world to take part in a Covid-19 vaccine trial. His father, Sharat, a bone marrow transplant physician, had already been in the trial himself, and encouraged Abhinav to sign up after experiencing no ill effects other than a fever that lasted for a day or two.

“I’m happy that he’s doing his bit for science,” Sharat said of his son. “With the Pfizer study, no major side effects have been reported so far, so that made me comfortable with enrolling Abhinav as well.”

Earlier this month, Pfizer became the first pharmaceutical company in the United States to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test its vaccine on children as young as 12. The kids who have signed up say they are proud to be participating — and say they feel safe doing so.

“They were talking about symptoms, and they were just fatigue, low-grade fever, headache. I was thinking, ‘I hope I don’t have anything like that because I don’t want it to mess with school or work,’” Katelyn Evans, 16, of Green Township, Ohio, said. “But I wasn’t thinking about my permanent health for a short-term inconvenience.”

Katelyn Evans, 16, receives a Covid-19 vaccine during a trial at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center on Oct. 14. (Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center)
Katelyn Evans, 16, receives a Covid-19 vaccine during a trial at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on Oct. 14. (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center)

Like most of the other coronavirus vaccine trials, Pfizer’s involves getting two shots. Participants are given the shots three weeks apart and then have their health monitored for two years by researchers. The participants do not know whether they are receiving a placebo injection or an actual Covid-19 vaccine.

Either way, the youngest trial volunteers say they have confidence in the vaccines that are being developed — putting them at odds with many adults across the country.

Manufactured during a highly politicized pandemic in a matter of months versus the years or decades that a vaccine typically takes, the Covid-19 vaccines have prompted growing skepticism. A survey in October from Stat News and the Harris Poll found that only 58 percent of the American public would get a vaccine when it becomes available, down from 69 percent of those polled in August.

But researchers say the vaccines they are testing

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Local Teens Help Solve Flint’s Water Crisis with New Lab and Water Testing: ‘It Gives Me Hope’

Flint Community Lab

During the summer of 2014, thousands of people in the close-knit, industrial city of Flint, Michigan — “Flintstoners,” as they proudly call themselves — saw their lives change in an instant.

In an effort to save money, the city switched its water supply from the Detroit River to the Flint River. Residents immediately complained about the water’s smell and taste and reported worrying symptoms including hair loss, rashes, and seizures.

Tests ordered in August revealed E. coli was in Flint’s water, and parts of the city were ordered to boil the water before drinking it. Elected officials denied for over a year that the city’s water was also contaminated with lead, but they finally acknowledged that the water wasn’t safe in September 2015.

The crisis is still fresh in the minds of many residents who continue to experience long-term health effects and are wary of their water.

Now, a group of local high school and college students is hoping to restore trust in the water system among their neighbors through the new McKenzie Patrice Croom Flint Community Lab, also known as the Flint Community Water Lab. For the next three years, they will work alongside chemists from the University of Michigan to test the water in more than 20,000 Flint homes and share the results.

RELATED: How Sick Are the Kids in Flint? Inside the Shocking Health Effects of the Devastating Water Crisis

The lab began as a pilot program in 2018 between the Flint Development Center and regional non-profit organization Freshwater Future and officially opened last month with the support of donors, including the University of Michigan, Thermo Fisher Scientific and The Nalgene Water Fund.

Markeysa Peterson, 17, tells PEOPLE she joined the lab to help people struggling in the wake of the crisis. Her nephew Curtis was diagnosed with autism due to lead contamination.

“We have to go through the everyday struggle of teaching him how to develop and function,” she says. “The crisis has made me a bit mentally distraught — everybody in Flint is struggling because we don’t have the attention or support that we deserve.”

In August, Michigan announced that it would pay $600 million to the victims of the Flint Water Crisis, but some residents say money doesn’t solve leftover issues from the crisis.

“Everything from the water plant to our tap needs to be completed replaced in order for us to feel safe,” says Carma Lewis, who has spent most of her life in Flint. “We’re sending our babies into these old school buildings where they still don’t have safe water and they’re using bottled water.”

For more on the Flint Community Water Lab, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE or subscribe here.

Flint Community Lab Flint Community Lab

Lewis points out that having local teens and leaders running the lab is especially important to her, and she plans on getting her water tested regularly.

“It gives me hope,” she says. “I have more faith in kids

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