Health & Wellness

Standout Spartan: Dixon Mescall '24

Steward student among first youth volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine trial.
To ensure any vaccine's safety and efficacy, researchers rely on a diverse group of volunteers willing to enroll in clinical trials. It would take scientists much longer to reach their goal of protecting people from harmful viruses and diseases without the help of clinical trial participants. We are proud to learn that one of these selfless volunteers is a Spartan in Steward's Upper School — Dixon Mescall '24!

Dixon was one of only 2,200 12-15-year-olds selected to participate in a Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine study in adolescents. The phase-3 vaccine trial studies the effects of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on youth, and thus far, it touts promising results — 100% efficacy and robust antibody responses. On May 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used this trial and other factors to expand emergency use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 12-15-year-olds. Previously, the vaccine was only authorized for people ages 16 and older.

"It's an amazing opportunity to take part in something that's going to help so many people his age," his mom, Delaney (Turnage) Mescall '92, said. She learned of the trial through one of her father's (Steward trustee and former Athletic Director Neil Turnage) dental patients. Mrs. Mescall found the trial's contact information and inquired about open spaces. After Dixon passed a physical screening, he was scheduled for an appointment at the Virginia Research Center for bloodwork and the first shot on January 11. 
Because the study was blinded, participants didn't know whether they received a placebo or the actual vaccine. But Mrs. Mescall had a hunch Dixon had received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine when he felt ill following the first appointment. When Dixon felt ill after the second shot three weeks later, her suspicions were all but confirmed. The vaccine trial has since been unblinded, verifying Dixon's inclusion in the vaccinated group totaling 1,131 adolescents.

Dixon and the rest of the trial's participants will continue to be monitored for two years following their second dose as a long-term safety precaution. Recently, Dixon volunteered for an additional aspect of the trial, during which he will receive a nasal COVID-19 test every two weeks to see whether vaccinated people can carry the virus asymptomatically. 

"I support his decision but said he couldn't miss any more school because of appointments!" his mother said, laughing. "So all his future appointments happen before the school day."

It's an inspiration to see younger adults making decisions to protect themselves and others their age. Thanks, Dixon, for helping medical science make forward progress toward a healthier community!

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