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Public Health

Vaccinated With No Proof: What About Vaccine Trial Participants?

Doctor hand holding syringe with a blue background
Jernej Furman
Flickr Creative Commons

Businesses, schools and airlines are grappling with whether they should require proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, but what if you’ve been vaccinated and have no proof?

The Mountain West News Bureau’s Madelyn Beck spoke with KUNR’s Morning Edition host Noah Glick about her experience in a vaccine trial.

Noah Glick: So tell me again about the COVID-19 vaccine trial you’re in and where you're at with all of that. I know you shared some of that with us before.

Madelyn Beck: I am in the AstraZeneca vaccine trial, so that right now is a vaccine that’s not quite approved for FDA special use in the United States. It is approved overseas in the U.K. and in parts of Europe. I was part of that vaccine trial, and not too long ago, I was unblinded. So I was confirmed that I did get the real vaccine.

Glick: Are you able to provide proof of your vaccine? I know that some places are requiring that, like concert venues, some universities even. So are you able to provide that proof?

Beck: For the most part, no. I don’t have a CDC vaccine card that says I’ve been vaccinated. Some people have said that they’ve been able to get a letter from AstraZeneca or from other vaccine trials that says they have it, but will people accept those letters? Will they just think they’re forged letters? Is it really proof?

I talked with AstraZeneca about this and reached out to them, and they just got back with me saying, “We are trying to follow CDC guidelines of having some sort of proof for our vaccine trial participants.” But so far, that proof has been not very strong and/or nonexistent. I have not received anything.

Glick: Would you consider getting a different vaccine if you needed proof right away?

Beck: I think I would consider it, but at the same time, I’d be playing a bit of a guinea pig with myself, in that there are no tests to show what happens if you have two different kinds of vaccines in your body at one time. We just don’t know what that would do.

Obviously, from the types of sciences that are used for these different types of vaccines, it’s unlikely that it would cause any more effect than just getting one. But we don’t know; we don’t have vaccine trials of someone mixing AstraZeneca and Pfizer or mixing AstraZeneca or Moderna. So that would be just kind of a shot in the dark.

And it’s one of those things where “Should I be concerned? Should I not be concerned?” as a young woman who is in the age and demographic of the extremely rare cases of the other young women who had blood clots and died from them.

Glick: Some of those decisions are being made by airlines. [They are] one of the industries we’re seeing primarily in the news right now. So what can you tell me about the status of airlines requiring proof of vaccination?

Beck: So I’ve talked with a couple of airline associations and generally what they’ve said is they’ve largely seen airlines requiring the proof of the destination. So, if you’re flying to Dubai or you’re flying to the U.K., they will require or tell you that you’re going to need the proof that they’re going to require in those other countries.

Now to get into the United States and some other countries, most other countries at this point, you need just a negative test to show that you don’t have COVID-19. But some places are now looking to adopt [that] you have to have a negative test and proof of vaccination. So while it’s not going to be the airlines so much requiring it, they will say, “you’re going to need those to get on the plane or else you’re not going to be able to be in the country that we fly you to.”

Glick: And, the question I have is, you know, taking a step back, looking at vaccine trials themselves, I mean, we’ve seen a handful of vaccines get approval, not only here in the [United] States, but across the world. So why even have vaccine trials at this point?

Beck: Well, there’s a couple reasons. One is that you need ongoing trials to see how effective the vaccine is for the long term. So you’re looking at if the antibodies are still there, if you’re testing someone’s blood, there are Pfizer trials still going on. There are, you know, Moderna trials still going on. You need those to keep going on, just to make sure how it looks in your blood for research of “Are we going to need a booster shot? When are we going to need a booster shot?” That sort of thing.

And then the second reason is that a lot of experts have said that if we can’t vaccinate the whole world, the concern is there's going to be pockets of locations without any vaccine access. And that will be a breeding ground for new strains of the coronavirus that could be more deadly and could get around all of the defenses of our now made vaccines. So, we need more vaccines to be able to reach those locations. And we need vaccines that might be cheaper to manufacture, easier to store, easier to ship. So we need more testing on these other kinds of vaccines that could reach those populations.

Madelyn Beck is a reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.

Editor’s Note: This interview mentions that there arent any vaccine trials studying the mixing of different vaccines. There are some small studies underway, but nothing is widely considered conclusive at this point.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

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