True Story - I'm participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial (Part 6: Follow-up)

March 29, 2021
Vaccine trial participant Kelly Warren walks her dog.
Vaccine trial participant Kelly Warren and her dog take advantage of the spring weather. Photo by Sarah Pack

Kelly Warren is a manager with MUSC’s Enterprise Campaigns and University Communications. Warren volunteered to be a participant in the MUSC/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial. She shares her experiences so that others might also feel comfortable receiving the vaccine. This is part four. Read part one here. Read part two hereRead part three here. Read part four here. Read part five here.

 

What gift do you give yourself for surviving a full year in a global pandemic? For me, it was the unblinding of my COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine trial… OK, and maybe a treat from my favorite bakery, too.

 

After being symptomatic following my first shot, I felt pretty confident that I’d received the vaccine and not a placebo. However, I had to wait for the big reveal. When I began the trial, I was told it would be two years before records would be opened. Once we had vaccines on the market, though, AstraZeneca decided that individual results would be unblinded as participants became eligible for vaccination.

 

I became eligible and at the beginning of March made an appointment. After submitting proof of my appointment to the study coordinators, they were able to unblind my record and the results were shared –  I had indeed received the vaccine!

 

Learning that I’ve been fully vaccinated for months brought a variety of feelings. It was reassuring to know I hadn’t imagined the symptoms. I felt reaffirmed in my decision to participate. And I felt something I can only describe as retroactive relief. Even though I felt some of the fear begin to lighten months ago when I thought I had received the vaccine, I’ve still been a little on edge. Now, I felt the same rush of relief that many others have described after being fully vaccinated –  but it was accompanied by a wave of relief that reaches back to when I began the trial.

 

Since enrolling in the study, I’ve paid particular attention any time AstraZeneca was mentioned in the news. In the most recent months, as data has been released, I’ve felt a sense of pride for participating. It’s been cool to see stats and know that I’m one small representative, when they list the number of participants. It’s a feeling similar to the early days of the pandemic, when I felt so connected to our larger global community.

 

While it hasn’t been the smoothest rollout, I am excited and hopeful that this vaccine will soon be approved in the U.S. The faster we get more vaccines in arms, the better! Of course, I’ve been paying attention to reporting on efficacy rates, effects on severe illness and potential correlation to blood clots. I still feel very confident in my participation and the vaccine.

 

With my records unblinded, I was advised not to take another vaccine and asked to continue participating in the trial, which I will be doing. At this point, it’s a weekly e-diary that takes less than a minute to complete and the occasional in-person appointment. Overall, I’ve had a great experience, especially considering my early vaccination and tiny role in history. I would absolutely participate in a trial again.

 

It truly feels like an end is in sight as my family and friends receive their vaccines. I know life won’t be exactly as it was before, and for now, we must continue taking precautions. But there are signs of normal life returning. There are talks that soon we will be gathering again for celebrations, and I can now walk in busy parks and go to the gym without the all too familiar underlying fear that has accompanied us for a year. And, eating outside at restaurants will soon seem like just another expected perk of spring in Charleston.

 

So with this final entry, I urge everyone to get the vaccine as soon as you can, continue to protect yourself and others by masking and following guidelines and practice patience for just a little longer. And if you get the chance, participate in clinical research.

About the Author

Kelly Warren

Keywords: COVID-19, Research