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Public Health

Mountain West Reporter Shares Experience With COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

Someone extracts fluid from a vial using a syringe.
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The Pfizer vaccine has already arrived in Nevada but has yet to be distributed to the general public. At the same time, testing for other vaccines are currently underway.

The recent arrival of the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is an important landmark in the fight against the pandemic; however, the Pfizer vaccine isn’t the only one in production, and trials for other vaccines are nearing completion.

Madelyn Beck, a regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau, took part in one of those trials and sat down with KUNR’s Jayden Perez to share her experience.

Jayden Perez: Let's just cut right to it. How were you able to gain access to the vaccine?

Madelyn Beck: So this wasn't the Pfizer vaccine that you see being rolled out nationally. I am part of a vaccine trial for AstraZeneca. I'm in the phase three trial. About 40,000 people around the world will be part of this trial. Two-thirds will get the actual vaccine. One-third will get the placebo. I won't know which one I got, whether I got the real vaccine or the placebo, but I did have some side effects. Of course, your body and brain can manufacture those when you have a placebo, giving the placebo effect, but I did have body aches, soreness and a headache, which is pretty in line with what others have been reporting as side effects for AstraZeneca's vaccine.

Perez: So then did you apply for this program?

Beck: Yeah, I ended up getting prompted by Facebook, of all things. I was on Facebook when it actually had a targeted ad towards me that said, ‘Would you like to be part of a COVID-19 trial?’ I was interested in it for a few different reasons. One being, as a reporter, I could get firsthand experience to tell other people what happens in a trial, how you do a trial [and] what a COVID-19 trial looks like from the inside. Then, also just kind of as a civic engagement sort of thing. It's like giving blood. So yeah, I clicked on this Facebook link, and I filled out some information, and then it hooked me up with a nearby clinic that was doing a trial. That clinic for me was in Meridian, Idaho. I drove over there a few days after they gave me a call and went through a couple hours of poking and prodding and passing around, and then I got something injected into my arm.

Perez: Is this the final trial? What stage is the vaccine in?

Beck: So yeah, usually they go through four phases, and this is phase three. Once it gets through all the phases of a trial, they will apply, like Moderna and Pfizer have done, to be approved for an emergency use authorization, which then would mean they would go to a board that advises the CDC, who would say who should get the vaccine, who shouldn't get the vaccine and then be distributed. AstraZeneca's [vaccine] is a little different than what we see in Moderna and Pfizer. It is promised to be cheaper potentially, easier to store potentially, but some of the early trials showed that it might not be quite as effective as Moderna and Pfizer. Moderna and Pfizer's first go around, you saw 90% or above effectiveness. Then with AstraZeneca, one of the first trials showed closer to 70%. Later trials have [shown] more, but at this point, we have a pretty high bar for how effective we want our vaccines to be.

Perez: What's the process of taking the vaccine?

Beck: So the process is I went in for the first shot and now I'm going to go for a second shot, a booster shot, here on New Year's Eve. That day I go in for the second shot. It is a two-shot regime, just like you see with Pfizer and Moderna. So yeah, I'll get that second shot here, coming up in a couple of weeks. In the interim, they call and check in, see if I've had many side effects, and make sure I have no symptoms for having gotten COVID. If I get COVID, then that sets off a whole other list of, they're going to be regularly testing me for COVID and monitoring what's going on with me.

Jayden Perez is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

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