COVID vaccine trial unblinded for KGUN 9 anchor

KGUN9 Anchor Pat Parris receives injection during Moderna COVID vaccine trial in Tucson
Posted at 4:14 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 18:14:58-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Southern Arizona played an important role in the development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Nearly a thousand volunteers have taken part in the local portion of the clinical trial.

That includes myself, KGUN9 anchor Pat Parris.

Back in the early fall I received two shots, 28 days apart, but did I get the vaccine, or was it a placebo?

At the time I felt moderate side effects, making me think I actually received the vaccine.

As part of the double-blind Moderna trial, half of the 30,000 participants nationwide received the vaccine. The other half were given the placebo.

The Moderna vaccine received emergency approval in December and is now one of two COVID-19 vaccines being distributed across Arizona.

"Certainly is gratifying," said Dr. Jack McGettigan. "Certainly makes us feel good."

He owns Quality of Life Medical & Research Center and headed up the Tucson portion of Moderna's national trial.

Dr. McGettigan is proud of the part they played in getting vaccines in the arms of Tucsonans. "Because we've been working hard for quite awhile," he said. "It's rare that we get to have such a big contribution to medicine."

"It feels great because we've actually been a part of collecting all the data for Moderna to get it this far," said Yvonne De Los Reyes. She is the clinical research coordinator at Quality of Life.

Now she's busy again. This time, bringing participants back in to unblind them.

Because of the seriousness of the virus, Moderna is allowing volunteers to find out what they received.

If they got the placebo, they will immediately be offered the vaccine.

"Some are really surprised," De Los Reyes said. "If they received the placebo they're like 'Oh man I thought I had the real vaccine all this time.'"

She added, "Those that received the real vaccine say 'I had no reaction, are you sure I got the real stuff?'"

From the first dose back in August, I thought I received the vaccine, not a placebo.

It turns out that I was right. I have been vaccinated since early fall.

De Los Reyes said, "There are some patients that truly believe 'I did receive the vaccine.'"

Quality of Life has unblinded more than half of their nearly 1,000 participants in the trial.

Those volunteers are being asked to continue in the two-year study.

"There are so many things we don't know yet about this virus," explained Dr. McGettigan. "As it's mutating, do we need to do boosters, do we need to create a new vaccine every year or every two years? Those are questions that none of us really have the answer for."

I plan on continuing in the Moderna study to help provide some of those answers.

Finally, there is a profound sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that I helped, in some way, get a vaccine in the arms of Tucsonans.