TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Southern Arizona has played a major role in one of the COVID-19 vaccines now being distributed. It is home to the largest site in the nation for Moderna's trial.
That trial will continue for two years to study the efficacy of the vaccine, but now, frontline workers and first responders are being unblinded.
That includes a fire chief who's helping Arizona, and the nation, rebound.
"I was pleasantly surprised," said Chief Cheryl Horvath of Tubac Fire District. "I was elated when I found out."
Horvath is describing the moment she was told she did receive the COVID-19 vaccine, not a placebo.
Horvath had almost no side effects after receiving both shots, as part of the Tucson portion of the Moderna Phase 3 trial.
Quality of Life Medical & Research Center has already started to unblind the trial for frontline workers and first responders.
That allows those who received the placebo to then get the vaccine.
Plus, it gives peace of mind to those who actually received the vaccine during the trial, like Horvath.
"I cannot even tell you how much of a psychological bag of rocks is off my shoulders, knowing that I've been protected for the last three months."
Chief Horvath is one of seven in her department to take part in the trial. Two received the vaccine, four got the placebo, while one is still waiting to be unblinded.
Horvath's focus is now on the rest of Tubac Fire.
"I've just been on pins and needles for most of the year simply because we're in a rural setting," Horvath said. "We have very long transport times."
That is why Horvath decided to talk with the union, and then ask the fire district board to make getting the vaccine mandatory for Tubac Fire.
"I took it to our board in late December and they agreed. They voted to approve the policy."
Most of Tubac Fire's 30 members have received their first of two vaccine doses.
Horvath says all of them should be vaccinated by early March.
She encourages everyone to consider getting the vaccine, after her unique journey as a fire chief who took part in the Moderna trial.
"My gosh, the risk is so much higher to not get the vaccine. For me it's a personal choice. There's a lot of people who agree with that. There's some people who disagree with that. I just hope people do the right thing. Talk to their physicians, learn a little bit more and trust in the process."
KGUN9 Anchor Pat Parris is enrolled in the same Moderna trail as Chief Horvath.
His COVID vaccine journey continues later this month when he will be unblinded, to find out if he received the vaccine or the placebo.