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10-Year-Old Maya Gandhi Blazed Trail For Children's COVID-19 Vaccinations By Taking Part In Rutgers University Study

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Just days after the Centers for Disease Control approved the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11, the White House announced it had already secured enough doses for every child in America.

The progress so far is thanks to the brave kids who stepped up and participated in clinical trials.

CBS2's Mary Calvi spoke with one young lady who has a very personal reason for volunteering.

In some ways, Maya Gandhi is a typical 10-year-old. In others, she's quite extraordinary.

"I felt that like this was something that I really wanted to do, something I could really make a difference," Gandhi said.

It was a magnanimous gesture from a child, profound when you realize Gandhi volunteered for the children's COVID-19 vaccine trial.

"Was there any concern about going in and getting this vaccine before any other children had gotten this vaccine?" Calvi asked.

"I was a little scared because I've heard about like the side effects and stuff. And it's just like being like one of the first people to test it out for your age group," Gandhi said.


With her mom's blessing and a call to her pediatrician, Gandhi became one of 100 chosen out of 2,000 who applied for a Rutgers University vaccine study.

"Being that your mom is a doctor, did that influence your decision?" Calvi asked.

"Um, I'd say maybe a little, but I still wanted to do it for me," Maya said.


Nisha Gandhi is an ICU doctor at Englewood Health. She has seen the ravages of this disease from the very beginning from the front lines.

"It was devastating to see all these patients coming in, you know, a lot of them ended up dying. Their family separated from them, not being able to visit. It's been heartbreaking, even now when we think about it," Nisha Gandhi said.

Experts agree vaccines are vital to make sure those dark days don't come back, with children being part of the solution.

"The biggest question is, 'Should I get my child vaccinated?' And we say very strongly, 'Definitely,'" said Dr. Jennifer Lighter of Hassenfeld Children's Hospital.

Lighter is a pediatric infectious disease specialist. She said reactions are not uncommon but easily treatable, adding health risks from COVID are too serious to ignore.

"The risk of myocarditis is multiple times higher from actual COVID infection than it is, you know, from a vaccination. In addition, the virus, itself, can cause a myocarditis in children," Lighter said.


But getting parents to agree to vaccinate their children is still a challenge.

Washington Heights is a neighborhood experiencing a high vaccine hesitancy. Yvonne Stennett, of the Community League, told Calvi the children are leading the way.

"It's the children in the school right now [who] are ambassadors for the rest of the family. So we're able to deliver messages through our young people that come in every day to our school about the need for them to talk to their parents about their siblings," Stennett said.

As for Gandhi, once the emergency use authorization was issued to administer the Pfizer vaccine to children 5 and older, Rutgers lifted the blind in their study and informed her that she got the real vaccine, not a placebo.

"How proud are you of your daughter?" Calvi asked.

"I am so proud of her. I am. I've never been more proud. She has been a rock star. It's amazing. It has been amazing to go through this," Nisha Gandhi said.

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