Glenn K. Beaton is a writer and columnist living near Aspen. He has been a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, RealClearPolitics, Powerline, Instapundit, American Thinker and numerous other print, radio and television outlets.
Regular Beatniks know that since last summer I’ve been enrolled in the clinical trials for the Pfizer COVID vaccine. Because it’s a “blinded” study, I never really knew whether I’d received the vaccine or a placebo.
The clinic called me last week to tell me that Pfizer was unblinding the study for people in my demographic (translation: old farts) if we wished. Moreover, Pfizer was offering to administer the vaccine to those whom the unblinding revealed had received the placebo.
I accepted Pfizer’s offer. They then told me I’d received the placebo. I suspected as much based on the complete absence of any side effects, as well as the antibody test that I took a week after getting the injection which told me I had no COVID antibodies. (Getting the antibody test was not prohibited by the paperwork I signed.)
Pfizer then offered me the vaccine. I accepted their offer, and received the vaccine this morning.
I’m a volunteer in the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine. I knew there was some risk in volunteering to take an unproven medicine. But I hoped that my participation might help me do well against the virus, and might also help me do good for humanity. My efforts to do well and do good have worked out fine, until now.
Understand that these studies are conducted with two distinct groups. One group gets the vaccine. The other group gets a placebo. The placebo is not medicine. It’s a simple saline shot that does nothing at all.
The reason for these two groups is to establish a placebo-taking “control group” against which both the efficacy and side effects of the vaccine can be measured in the vaccine-taking group. The study is “blinded,” meaning that the patients themselves don’t know whether they got the vaccine or the placebo. That’s to avoid tainting the results with “placebo effect” and “reverse placebo effect” symptoms.