Austin COVID-19 vaccine trial participant says her side effects are ‘worth it’ for progress


AUSTIN (KXAN) — As an Air Force veteran, taking risks and helping people are in Abby Strite’s nature.

“It’s important to look outside of ourselves and see what we can do for our community,” she said.

She’s a healthy mom to two healthy kids, with no underlying conditions. She’s also currently working from home. When she heard she could sign up for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial in the Austin area, she jumped at the chance.

 “For me, at least, the risk seems quite low for a really great benefit of helping science—moving this all along as fast as we can in a scientific way,” she said.

Strite did experience some side effects for around 24 hours after her second ‘booster’ shot.

“It felt like a very bad hangover,” she laughed. “It felt like I was very, very dehydrated, very tired, a little woozy.” 

Since then, she’s been reporting her health status through an app and plans to check-in with the trial doctors throughout the 25-month process.

Diversity in vaccine trials

We first met Strite back in August, after she learned the timeline for one of her appointments in the trial had been rapidly pushed forward.

“It made me worry that we are rushing the trials in order to rush the results, for political purposes,” she told KXAN at the time.

Eventually, she got a response from the company. They told her they had actually moved up many scheduled appointments, in order to include more high-risk populations in the trial.

“Ultimately, their answer was a pretty good one. I wish I’d had it in the first place,” she said, hearing about Moderna’s focused efforts on diversity in the study. “That makes the results more scientific and better.”

Last week, Moderna announced it had reached its enrollment goal of 30,000 participants for Phase 3 of the trial. Their Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel called it an “important milestone.”

“We are indebted to all of the participants in the study,” Bancel said in a news release.

Moderna noted 37% of the trial participants were people of color. According to their data, more than 6,000 participants identify as Hispanic or LatinX, and more than 3,000 participants identify as Black or African American. They said 42% of study participants were medically high-risk, with more than 7,000 people over the age of 65. Plus, more than 5,000 people in the trial are under the age of 65, but have high-risk chronic diseases such as diabetes, severe obesity and cardiac disease.

In a panel last week, experts peppered the FDA with questions regarding the diversity of these trials and the speed at which they are being conducted.

The nonprofit Reagan-Udall Foundation showed some results from their ongoing survey of frontline workers and traditionally underrepresented groups. They said people of color raised concerns about being “used as guinea pigs” in trials. Others spoke out about worries that politics and money were being prioritized over safety.

“Time and time again, the U.S. has proven it is about the dollar, especially in health care,” one respondent told the Reagan-Udall Foundation.

Officials with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) emphasized the importance of transparency to assuage these concerns.

“You can have a fantastic vaccine, and if no one takes it, it’s not going to do much to end this pandemic,” said Dr. Hilary D. Marston, Policy Advisor for Pandemic Preparedness for NIH.

On KXAN News at 6 p.m., Avery Travis will have more from a local vaccine research firm about how trials are progressing.

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