I’m in the COVID vaccine trials

pfizerscovid

I’ve been called an idiot and a traitor for this. An idiot for taking a small chance on a vaccine that looks very effective and safe in clinical trials so far, and a traitor for turning against some of my tribe who think the virus is a hoax.

And then there’s the anti-vaxxers.

My decision is mostly for selfish reasons. As a 64-year-old man in reasonable health, I’m tired of being locked down. I want to see my adult daughters and friends without them or me worrying that we’ll transmit the virus. I used to travel a lot and I want to be able to resume that legally and safely.

Only slightly less selfishly, I want to be part of a pioneering effort to defeat this thing. Our parents and grandparents beat polio, measles, smallpox and mumps. Our generation will beat this disease too. This virus picked the wrong host.

Lastly, my participation might be good for humanity is a small way. We need people not to cower but to step up. Brilliant scientists have developed these vaccines at warp speed – they’ll go down with Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine – but now they need help.

They need patients. Preferably, patients of the demographic that are susceptible to the disease who will present a real test of the vaccine. I can be one such patient.

The scientists are the real heroes, but I too can be a hero, albeit a teeny, tiny, itsy, bitsy one.

Here’s how it works. I applied to be a volunteer patient on a website run by a clinical trials company. The company screened me by telephone with 10-15 questions about my health. They aren’t looking for people in perfect health, since the vaccine is intended to be administered to many unhealthy people, but they do want to screen out people with conditions such as immunological disorders that might confound the results.

At the end of this 10-minute screening, I was told I was qualified. They scheduled the shot for this coming Monday morning. I’ll get either the Pfizer vaccine or a placebo. It’s a blind study, so I won’t know which I actually get until it’s unblinded months from now.

As for my idiocy, some people think these vaccines are unsafe. Notably, the people saying that are not virologists or epidemiologists. Rather, they’re YouTube attention seekers and social media repeaters.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong. Even a blind pig finds an occasional acorn. But I’ll take my chances with the experts, not the YouTubers and Facebookers.

Besides, these vaccines are not entirely untested. They are now in the final phase of testing. Earlier phases showed both robust efficacy and high safety. It’s true that there are reports of occasional “side effects” which I’m willing to risk including low grade fevers a day afterward and “pain at the injection site.”

Consider that. Sometimes these injections produce “pain at the injection site.” I suppose California will soon require a warning label to that effect.

As for me being a traitor, some people in my conservative tribe think the virus has been used for political purposes. That much is certainly true.

It’s true, for example, that the left barely conceals its glee in this election year that thousands have died, the country was shut down and for a while the stock market tanked. A Republican president cruising to re-election in a booming economy last winter has had to deal with a pandemic that has produced the worst unemployment since the Great Depression.

It’s equally true that the death and new case numbers are unreliable and the efficacy of such measures as masks and social distancing is uncertain (though probable). The vulnerability of the healthy population is overstated. The lockdowns of healthy people were destructive (and, conversely, the failure to isolate vulnerable elderly people was deadly).

But that doesn’t mean the virus is a hoax. It’s undisputable that the virus is widespread and dangerous, even if the political posturing over it is deplorable and the media coverage is incompetent and biased.

As for the anti-vaxxers, that’s the weird alliance of people mostly on the far left along with a minority on the far right who disagree about everything else but agree, without real evidence, that vaccinations are harmful.

Lately, they’ve gone right off the deep end. They now contend that vaccinations are a plot by Bill Gates to (1) reduce world population and (2) implant microchips in everyone. As if Bill Gates wants to kill or spy on The Aspen Beat.

Everyone is entitled to fantasy, especially people with small lives who are afraid. But the fantasies of anti-vaxxers are dangerous because they’ve produced a resurgence in diseases that were practically exterminated such as measles.

Interestingly, the anti-vaxxers are not just concerned about the well-being of themselves and their children. As I’ve learned on social media, they proselytize. They insist that you, too, join in their anti-vaxxing beliefs. This is not really science for them, though they try to couch it in pseudo-science. It’s faith. Unbelievers in their faith are heretics whom they name-call and seek to shame and banish.

So that’s where I am. Next column: “After the shot”

37 thoughts on “I’m in the COVID vaccine trials

  1. I must give you the highest accolades for being a part of the solution to the pandemic and not one of those who, with a total absence of reality, make the pandemic something less than what it is, a deadly disease that threatens all of us, world-wide. A “hoax”, it certainly is not

    • You seem to be outraged over a false “HOAX” assertion that Trump supposedly had made back in February 2020, but even left-leaning SNOPES says that this DemonicRat ‘HOAX’ claim isn’t true:

      https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-coronavirus-rally-remark/

      As you may recall, back in February 2020 it was the DemonicRats, mainly Pelosi, Biden and de Blasio, who were telling people back then to congregate and go about life normally, while calling Trump a xenophobe for curtailing flights from China, and later from Europe.

      As for the seriousness of Covid-19, YES, people can die from it, but people (especially children) also die from the annual flu. Thankfully, Covid-19 is less deadly to children than the annual flu is.

      This is my 3rd pandemic I’ve lived thru … I was too young to remember the 1957 Asian flu, but I was in the Navy bound for Vietnam during the 1968 Hong Kong flu.

      During the 1968 Hong Kong flu no one hunkered down and we all went about our normal business … believe me, I would have preferred to hunker down back at home rather than go to Vietnam.

      Flu is generally the 7th leading cause of death each year, and to date, despite Covid-19, overall deaths in America are actually lower this year than last year at this time.

      Stop being a pussy … ya, things out there can kill you, but Covid-19 is being overblown, likely for political reasons.

      • Thanks for your comment, Ken.

        But I’m not sure where you got the impression that anyone was trying to take Trump to task for asserting that the virus is a hoax. I certainly wasn’t trying to take Trump to task for that, and, as you noted, Trump didn’t say it was a hoax — he was a leader in travel bans for example.

        Unfortunately however, some in my conservative tribe DO contend that it’s a hoax. It’s not, but, as I stated, many on the left have used it for blatantly political purposes which has exacerbated the problem and the partisanship.

  2. Hell why not? Whoever’s giving you grief needs to pick their knuckles off the ground. It’s a shot, self-serving or for the betterment of man, people like Ken and Karyn need to get a life.

  3. Like you, Glenn, I would be willing to participate in this trial. However, since my employer screens for elevated temp, my concern would be as to whether the possible fever and related symptoms might end up inhibiting my access to the workplace, or worse putting me into quarantine.

    Thoughts?

  4. Thank you Glen. You have described well, the pros and cons of the vaccine. I hope you get the vaccine and not the placebo.

  5. Excellent column, Glenn, and I applaud you for volunteering to be one of the study’s participants. You’ve inspired me to try again after being rejected because I had an adverse possibly allergic reaction to the flu shot last year, but I’ll try again to volunteer for the COVID vaccine and see where I get. I agree with everything else you said in your column. Thanks for saying it.

  6. Thank you, Glenn, for volunteering. I’m a bit older than you with underlying issues and am depending on a vaccine in order to resume normal life. I discussed with my wife the possibility of me volunteering for the trial but she wouldn’t hear any of it. Experimental medicine scares her more than the virus, it seems. Good luck and please keep us up to date on your trial results.

  7. Glenn, proud of you and thank you for your bravery and sacrifice. One day when we are all sitting in a crowded bar during allergy season…we can raise a toast to you and others like you who made it possible….again. Seriously old friend, let us know how it goes, and we all wish you good luck.

  8. Strange as it sounds to say this, I’m wishing you a low-grade fever on Tuesday! And a long life thereafter.

    I’m no anti-vaxxer, but I’d want to know from Pfizer if its vaccine has been developed with the aid of embryonic or fetal material of any kind. That would be the disqualifier for me.

    Finally, I found one sentence that disturbs me in the link you provided to the BBC article about Bill Gates — the sentence that suggests that Gates is no more appropriately linked to supersized conspiracy theories than is George Soros. What? If Beelzebub exists, then Soros fits the description. The BBC just telegraphed its affinity with the powers behind CNN and The New York Times, as if that were news. We

    Anyway, thanks for bearing, or baring, your arm, or wherever the injection site is. You’re a warrior.

  9. Glad you have confidence, Glenn. Expert virologist Judy Mikovitz has zero faith in these vaccines. She’s the one whose doctoral thesis revolutionized the treatment for AIDS back in 1991. Worked for Fauci for years before realizing he was selling the public a bill of goods. She’s on YouTube. Worth your time.

      • What the Science article does not refute is Mikovits’ claim that “the new coronavirus is being wrongly blamed for many deaths” (first sentence). This is surely, glaringly, scandalously true.

        Also — the lack of clear scientific explanations notwithstanding — her claims about the perils of mask-wearing and about the healing powers of ocean water (whether “microbial” or just chemical) are so in synch with my basic intuition and experience that I have to salute her for these pronouncements. Closing beaches and mandating masks when exercising outdoors are idiotic.

      • Judy Mikovits and her PhD advisor, Frank Ruscetti, both wound up on the wrong side of Fauci and associates a long time ago. Given all the worthwhile work they did in the HIV field (regardless of what the article you cited says), and the fact that Fauci has proven himself less than trustworthy over the last few months (from “masks don’t work” to everyone should be wearing them), I’m skeptical of the “discredited hack” claim, especially since Wikipedia and Snopes are fully onboard with it. The article you cite also says there’s no evidence the current coronavirus came from the lab in Wuhan; not even the New York Times believes that.

  10. It’s a little hard to understand the Hoaxer position. Just because a disease has been politicized, does not make it not a disease. The best way to disarm political weaponization is a vaccine. Good for you in helping to achieve that result.

  11. Well, you’ve now received the gratiude and appreciation you sought with this announcement.

    What is your plan in the upcoming months while you wait for the results? Continuing to cower under your bed, assiduously avoiding any and all contact with those potential disease vectors formerly known as your friends, co-workers and family?

    And, most importantly, what is your plan if the vaccine proves not to effective or safe (a highly likely outcome)? Back under the bed?

      • Glenn, with all due respect (and I do respect your work), posting comments under “something less than [one’s] full name” is very understandable in today’s day and age, and doesn’t mean someone is a “coward.” Fact is, employers, especially larger corporate or government ones, now routinely screen potential and current employees for their comments. In your case, putting your political opinion on line IS your job. I realize you got canned from your last job but you got canned for doing your job, not for some off hours commentary you made. My point is your and Anton’s (or my) positions are not equivalent.

  12. I’m curious why you chose the Pfizer mRNA vaccine over the virus platform approaches of Merck, Astra Zeneca. The latter are repurposing successful Ebola, personalized cancer, and stroke treatments. Pfizer and Moderna are coding “messenger” RNA with instructions for the body to make its own viral antigen immunity cells to fight COVID-19. My fear is that there is so much federal money (being printed!) that they will all claim success – in one population or another. Like the flu vaccine – you don’t really know if it works. You get the flu, it didn’t. You don’t get sick, it did.

    • I didn’t choose the vaccine. The clinical trials company chose it for me, and I had no say. (These trials are often done not by the pharma company but by third party companies who do that for their business. Maybe that’s not only more efficient, but also insulates the pharma company from the trial.)

      I suppose there are incentives for the pharma companies to “claim success” as you put it, but the data will be publicly available for peer review — and I’m sure will be, very carefully, just as the data from earlier Phase I and II trials was — and for review by you and me as well. I think misleading claims of success are something that the system is equipped to deal with, and will do so here as it does in other clinical trials of other pharmaceuticals

  13. The “clinical trials company“ (CRO) represents and is paid by Pharma – and you had a right to know who they are and their clients. They are bound like lawyers, md’s, accounting firms by ethical standards. The data from phase I/II trials is limited to VERY few humans – and each candidate needs enrollment of minimally 30,000 people. The end-points (clinical objectives) have NOT been disclosed – viral load exposure, duration of immunity – and these are typically agreed upon at the front end by FDA. It is incumbent on the CRO to notify a company if/when they have reached a statistical fail during the trial. We’ll see what happens here – I’m sure there are guaranteed progress/milestone payments in all of these deals – they have been guaranteed getting their cost out.

    • I’m aware that the clinical trials company is engaged by the pharma company, as I mentioned. Yes, I have a right to know who they are and who their client is, and they’ve told me. That’s how I know I’ll be taking the Pfizer vaccine (or a placebo).

      As for the data from the previous studies, it has been peer reviewed and published in some of the very most pretigious scientific journals incluing the New England Journal of Medicine, and Nature.

      As for the number of patients in the Phase I/II studies, for both Moderna and Pfizer the number was 45. That’s a very small number in comparison to the 30,000 that will be in the final phase, but as an absolute number it’s significant. The efficacy in those 45-person trials was 100%.

      I think a statistician would say that the odds that the efficacy would suddenly drop to something less than 50% in the final study are vanishly small.

      Duration of immunity is impossible to establish without trials. That’s one of the purposes of them. Typically in these sort of vaccines, we see multi-year efficacy, but it’s impossible to know that in advance.

      Thanks for you input. Glenn

  14. Pingback: COVID19 update, August 16, 2020: insights on superspreading; exodus from dense urban centers; mask mandates on Zoom calls [satire-proof]; politicization of academia and science. | Spin, strangeness, and charm

  15. It’s a fascinating process, should be interesting to hear of your experience. I’d be more interested in volunteering but I’m not convinced of the thoroughness quotient in creating the vaccine over the grabbing federal cash quickly aspect. I hope I’m wrong and that it is successful.

  16. You did know then what trial you were participating in and the mechanism of the vaccine – easy to find public info and a big part of the stock hypes. Why wouldn’t a Co enter the race, when you get your cost back and can hype your stock with early and thin results?! (BTW not all pts in collapsed Phase I/II safety/efficacy got the exact same vaccine N=45 a,b, placebo does not mean 100% efficacy). NOTHING is known w/out trials – you do them, analyze the data, then toss it to the nightmare that is the FDA. Are you envisioning expedited approval to mean competent review under 18 mos? The odds of a drug/therapy/vaccine bombing out for efficacy, side effects or anything are 75% +
    Peer review of very limited data is still very limited data, not an assurance of future results.

    • Perhaps you would like to inform us of your qualifications for these scientific and medical proclamations in which you contend that world-class scientists and Physicians at the FDA and pharmaceutical companies will cheat and have cheated based on the fact that you can discern a motivation for them to do so. My personal observation is that scientist very rarely cheat, especially when they know their work will be peer reviewed. But maybe you have a different experience with you and your own colleagues

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