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COVID-19 vaccine trial participants will learn soon if they got the real thing

Flu Vaccination
Posted at 9:54 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 23:54:44-05

PHOENIX — Thousands of Arizonans rolled up their sleeves and took one for the team during coronavirus vaccine trials this summer. With a potential vaccine expected to roll out as early as next week, many in those trials now want to know if they’re truly protected.

“My cousin passed away last Thursday from COVID and she’s a nurse practitioner, no pre-existing, 60 years old,” said Frank Apodaca.

Apodaca enrolled in Moderna’s phase three trial nearly four months ago. At the time feeling it was his duty to step up when many like his cousin remained on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“This is still taking a devastating toll,” said Apodaca. “All of us have to do our part, this is not going away.”

The state reported more than 12,000 new cases Tuesday. But as sights now turn toward the roll out of a vaccine, many like Frank are asking themselves if they got the vaccine or the placebo.

“I think absolutely every one of us that was part of the trial vaccines wants to know,” said Apodaca.

The Moderna trial was a double-blind study. So not even the person giving the shot knew which the patient was getting.

“It’s really nice to kind of reward those who’ve stuck their neck out,” said Dr. McGettigan.

Dr. John McGettigan is heading up the Moderna phase three trial in Tucson at the Quality of Life Medical and Research Center. He’s now being told participants will soon learn which one they received.

“We’ll be bringing folks back in to find out whether they’re in the placebo group or in the vaccine group and those people who had not gotten it will be given an opportunity to receive it,” said Dr. McGettigan.

He adds they’ll also be moved to the top of the list to get it. Dr. McGettigan says alerting those who got the vaccine also ensures doses coming to the state aren’t wasted.

“We need every dose to go to someone who really needs it, we certainly don’t need people who have already received it to get another two doses,” said Dr. McGettigan.

While Pfizer has yet to confirm whether they’ll inform trial participants, Dr. McGettigan believes the company will follow Moderna’s lead.

“It’s the right thing ethically and morally to do.”