Image provided by Jenny Hua
Dr. Jenny Hua, the current treasurer of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO), recently volunteered as a study participant in the 2020 Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine trials. Lamar Life interviewed Hua to gain a deeper insight into her experience as a trial participant and what the new vaccine may mean for the country.
How did you join this trial? What made you want to be a part of this study?
“I was always interested in joining the trial; part of me is interested in volunteerism and I knew that they really needed participants to join as quickly as possible because of the urgent nature of this pandemic. For myself though, I was really hoping to be in the half that received the vaccine, versus the placebo group. My father is 90 years old and my mother is immunocompromised, so I wanted to do everything I could to make sure that I do not transmit Covid to them.”
“When I read an article in the Houston Chronicle about this, I immediately signed up online. It took them a while to call back but they eventually did.”
Can you describe what it was like to be a study participant? What did it entail?
“The initial visit to the clinic was roughly three hours long with a lot of paperwork and procedural steps, once they identify you as qualified for the study. It is very much like an annual exam with your doctor and at the end of the visit, they actually give you the shot and then watch you for thirty minutes. After that initial visit, there were about two or three shorter appointments, which were only about an hour long, where they took nasal swabs and asked questions. I also had to fill out an online diary to chronicle any symptoms I might have. There was another longer visit three weeks after the first visit, where they did a nasal swab, bloodwork and asked a lot more questions.”
“I did not know whether I got the vaccine or the placebo shot, because it was a double-blind study but when the FDA approved the vaccine, they decided to unblind all the medical professionals in the trials. The next week, they unblinded me (I had gotten the placebo) and offered the vaccine to me but because I was working in the hospital, I told them it would have to wait until I was back home. At the time, everybody in the hospital was trying to get vaccinated as soon as possible because we knew it would take some time to develop immunity. They said I could get the vaccine through my hospital but that would disqualify me for the study because they follow a very strict protocol so I waited to get vaccinated through the study, which was about 10 days later.”
Are you currently vaccinated? How did it feel to get your shot?
“I am not fully immune yet but I am on track! You need two shots to be fully vaccinated because there is only a little over 50% effectiveness to the first dose but about a 95% immunity response to both shots. I got the first shot three weeks ago and I am scheduled to get my second shot soon.”
“The actual shot was very different from the placebo shot I received. My arm was a little sore for 24 hours but I had no other symptoms. The shot itself was no different from the flu shot.”
“When I went in to get the first vaccine shot, there was a festive atmosphere. Everyone was so excited for me and they were all laughing because of how excited I was!”
Is it possible to contract Covid-19 from the vaccine?
“Absolutely not. It is impossible to get Covid from this vaccine. The genetic material from this vaccine will not change my DNA in any way, shape, or form.”
What would you say to people who do not believe in the vaccine?
“This is a free country and each person is entitled to their own beliefs but I believe in facts and in science. As a doctor and a study participant, I believe in this vaccine, having experienced the rigor of the scientific protocol involved in this trial.”
What does this vaccine mean for the future?
“This is our absolute best hope for controlling the pandemic. We need to achieve herd immunity and this is the safest and most effective to achieve that. I look forward to the day when I do not need to wear a mask when I step out of my front door.”