'You have to lead from the front:' Calabasas father, daughter take part in Pfizer vaccine trial

CALABASAS, Calif. (KABC) -- A COVID-19 vaccine would not be possible without the volunteers who have taken part in the clinical trials, including a father and daughter from Calabasas.

When the pandemic hit, many wondered how they could help. The father-daughter duo accepted a unique opportunity by participating in a Pfizer vaccine trial.

"Most people are shocked, like 'you did what?'" said Dan Stepenosky.

Meanwhile, his teen daughter, Kearston Stepenosky, feels she was able to help with something big.

"The opportunity to participate in this little medical moment, in the small way that I could, was so inspiring and worthwhile," she said.

It took some convincing, but Kearston's parents eventually approved her participation. Her dad, the Las Virgines Unified School District Superintendent, started the process first.

"You have to lead from the front," Stepenosky said. "It's not comfortable in the front. You may or may not want to be there but that's where you have to lead from and I want kids back in schools and I want kids and families in the community safe."

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He is also a colon cancer survivor. Following his treatment is part of what fueled his high school junior daughter's passion for medicine.

"That was my first introduction to robotic surgery," Kearston said. "So I went home and I watched all these videos on robotic surgery and I was like, 'Wow! This is amazing. This is something I really, really want to learn more about.'"

Going into a vaccine trial is stepping into the unknown. For them, it's a 26-month process.

They're being monitored and don't know with certainty if they received the vaccine or the placebo.

"For about five days after my first vaccine, I had some chills and body aches and headaches, and it was fine. It wasn't that bad," said Kearston.

They are excited Pfizer is reporting successful results and hope their story encourages others.

"Hopefully going forward people think about doing it also," Dan Stepenosky said. "Hopefully this our last pandemic for quite some time, but certainly won't be our last challenge."

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