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What It Was Like to Participate in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial


Yes, the timeline felt fast to me. I didn’t know if I would get called at all. At the time when I signed up there had already been overwhelming demand to participate in the Pfizer trial. I knew the study slots were close to full.

[Track coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the state.]

What was it like for you, a researcher, to take part in a randomized trial?

The feeling of being randomized took me by surprise. I should note that the study staff were absolutely wonderful to me. They answered all my questions and treated me with the utmost kindness, dignity and respect. But even so, randomization was unsettling. Despite knowing full well what I signed up for, it even felt unfair for a moment. As a practicing nurse, I had already had a number of potential coronavirus exposures, though fortunately, I never actually contracted the virus. It would have meant a lot to me to get the active vaccine and I really, really did not want to be in the placebo group.

A month later, you received a second injection but it was a very different experience. You had soreness at the injection site, nausea, chills, dizziness and a fever that spiked to 104.9 degrees the next day. Although you later found out that these side effects are common, do you think it will be a barrier to some people getting the vaccine? And, are the side effects you experienced anything to worry about?

I have received many vaccines in my life and have never had a strong reaction like I did with this injection, if indeed I got the active vaccine. Side effects could be a barrier if people are not prepared for them. It is critical that we as health care providers explain potential side effects patients might experience so that they come back for the second dose and do not worry that the side effects are dangerous. In almost all cases, side effects are transient and minor. My experience of having multiple side effects is very rare.

The side effects you experienced are also similar to the symptoms associated with Covid-19. How can health care providers reassure people about its safety?

First, I would urge all health care workers to get the vaccine if and when it is offered. It can go a long way with patients to say, “I trust this vaccine enough to have gotten it myself.” Second, I would urge health care providers to plan enough time to have a meaningful conversation with patients about their questions and concerns around these vaccines. We must be very clear that it is impossible for mRNA vaccines to cause Covid-19 and that these vaccines do not contain coronavirus. Finally, I think health care providers should be sure to explain why side effects are happening. Vaccines work by activating the body’s immune system, and it is this activation that both teaches the body how to protect itself from the virus and causes side effects like fever, chills, muscle pain, etc. Health care providers should explain that side effects are, in a way, a positive sign that the vaccine is working.



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