Almost immediately after New Jersey’s COVID vaccination rollout began at the end of last year, 10-year-old Maya Gandhi started thinking about getting the shot.

The Bergen County girl watched as her parents, both doctors, got vaccinated. In May, when her brothers, ages 13 and 14, got their Pfizer vaccines, she asked her mother Nisha when it would be her turn.

Nisha Gandhi said began to look for opportunities for Maya to join a Pfizer clinical trial. She applied to 8 studies around the country, and Maya was accepted for the Rutgers COVID pediatric vaccine clinical trial in June.

“When I first got the email I was ecstatic, I had tears in my eyes, I was so hopeful,” she said.

Gandhi said she read the entire 40-page consent form and Maya was thrilled about the opportunity.

Maya said she wanted to be in the clinical trial “so I could help COVID go away and more kids could get vaccinated, and school and activities and stuff would go back to normal.”

She said if we’re not getting to get back to normal, “hopefully at least school will be better, we’ll get to hang out more.”

She said when she found out she was accepted into the clinical she was “pretty excited, because out of so many people I got picked.”

Her mother said after the first shot Maya had a sore arm for about four hours and there were no side effects at all after the second shot.

Maya said wearing a mask all the time is not easy.

“It kind of sucks because I don’t know what my teachers look like when I first meet them,” she said.

She noted when she told her friends they were excited and shocked because they didn’t know this kind of study was being conducted.

Essex County resident Jenna Wagman applied to have all three of her children, ages 17 months and 6 and 8 years old, in the Rutgers clinical trial.

“I really wanted them to be as safe as possible, and I wanted to feel like they were keeping other people as safe as possible,” she said.

Wagman said she asked her 6-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter if they wanted to be in the clinical trial, telling them “they could help to make a difference in the world and they could give a lot of hope to a lot of people, but I also told them they didn’t have to do it if they didn’t want to.”

Both kids said yes, and their mom said she felt proud and grateful.

“I really took to heart what it meant to have my kids be safe from COVID and to have less risk of having them get other people sick.”

She was then tasked with filling out a trial diary, but she said side effects were minimal, with no adverse reactions.

Maya’s mom said once the clinical trial is over Maya will be able to get got the vaccine if she was given a placebo during the study, and after that “we haven’t planned a family trip but she wants to go to Universal Studios to see Harry Potter.”

Pfizer has reported positive results from the clinical trials, which involve about 3,000 kids, including 130 enrolled in the Rutgers trial.

The Food and Drug Administration could approve Pfizer’s request for emergency use authorization for younger children sometime next month.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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