Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

What It’s Like To Participate In A Coronavirus Vaccine Clinical Trial

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Coronavirus vaccines could arrive in Florida within weeks. On "Florida Roundup," two journalists with ties to the state talk about what it’s like to participate in the clinical trials to develop the vaccines.

Pfizer is the first company to seek emergency authorization for its coronavirus vaccine. On Friday, the pharmaceutical giant asked the Food and Drug Administration for approval to allow emergency use of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

The company's announcement comes after Pfizer announced its vaccine was 95% effective at preventing mild-to-severe COVID-19 infections.

Florida is preparing to receive that vaccine and another by Moderna that are expected here in the coming weeks, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Local journalists are working hard to keep you informed on the latest developments across South Florida. Please support this vital work.Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.

On the "Florida Roundup," two journalists with ties to the state, Jackie Hajdenberg and Ty Russell, talked about their experiences in the COVID-19 clinical vaccine trials with host Tom Hudson.

Hajdenberg is an investigative reporting fellow with Columbia Journalism Investigations. Russell, a Miami native, works for the CBS affiliate in South Florida.

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation. Click on the "Listen" link above to hear the entire program.

TOM HUDSON: Jackie, why offer your arm up for these experimental injections?

JACKIE HAJDENBERG: I was curious about clinical trials since about March or April when I saw that the pandemic was getting much worse and I was living in New York — and I had just gone back home to stay with my parents in Florida for a bit. Things were getting really, really bad.

And I was like, how am I possibly going to be able to contribute at all — anything? My parents both work in the medical and science industries, and my sister was doing research on COVID. I'm a journalist, so I was wondering how I could possibly contribute. And then I was thinking, you know, if they're recruiting for clinical trial participants, I would love to do that. I saw very little risk and I decided to participate.

Ty, how about for you? What was your motivating factor?

TY RUSSELL: I just wanted to give back in any sort of way. I have been doing so many stories regarding COVID-19. I knew that there was also a push within the minority community for this data to be able to see if these vaccines have a different impact on minorities. And, you know, in the minority community, there is also a lot of resistance to vaccines because of, you know, decades-old studies and what has happened [in] years past.

So I wanted to definitely step up. And in September, I was able to get the first shot, and then in October, I was able to get the second one. And fortunately, there have been no signs of any, you know, sort of symptoms. Again, I don't know if I have the actual vaccine or placebo. I likely believe that I have the actual vaccine.

We all know that you're a skeptical reporter. What leads you to believe that you got the real thing and not the placebo?

RUSSELL: Just because of the data and the push for minorities, I tend to believe that to collect the data, you'll need to actually give the vaccine to minorities to see if there's a different impact there. So that's what I believe is the strategy.

Any side effects for you, [Jackie]? And what is your reporter's intuition tell you about placebo or the real thing?

HAJDENBERG: So I didn't have any side effects after the first injection, but after the second one, less than 24 hours later, I did develop a very low-grade fever and just had general fatigue and malaise.

But when I actually called the clinic to report that I felt ill, when they asked my temperature, which was 99.8 at the highest, they said actually that was below the threshold for what they consider a low-grade fever. So I don't even know if they took note of that because it was so low. It didn't really count as a side effect that they were looking for.

So I do think that I possibly got the injection. But again, I could have just developed a low fever and felt sick for other reasons as well.
Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Denise Royal