I live in New Jersey. I got my masters degree from Rutgers University. I used to do infections disease rounds in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, attached to Rutgers. And once again, I am a Rutgers student in their Doctor of Nursing Practice Program. When the university announced that they were seeking volunteers to participate in a clinical trial for the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, I jumped at the chance. All I needed to do was to fit it into my work/school schedule.
I responded to an email sent out by the university and answered preliminary questions that the study team wound evaluate to determine if I were an appropriate candidate to participate in the trial at the end of October. On November 12, I was informed that I was approved for inclusion in the trial and I made my first appointment with the study team for December 3.
The study team emailed me a copy of the informed consent form ahead of time to review. It was 35 pages long and very detailed. The email did state that a member of the trial team would be reviewing the whole form with me at my appointment. The trial participants would be followed for two years after receiving their injection. As with any randomized double blind placebo controlled study, neither I, nor the people at the trial site would know if I were getting a real vaccine or a placebo. With other vaccines on the verge of receiving emergency use authorization, I was well aware that by enrolling in the trial there was a very real chance that I wound not be eligible to receive another vaccine while participating in this trial, and again there was a 50/50 chance that I would get a placebo. Still, I was very excited to be a part of this process.
On December 3rd, I pulled into the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital parking lot and made my way into the atrium. I was quite familiar with the building having done infectious disease rounds there for a couple of years. It was almost like coming home. I made my way to the research center and met a lovely nurse named Fey. We bonded over Star Trek (I as wearing my Starfleet medical insignia mask). She went over all the details of the consent form with me. She paid special attention to the part that talked about the one serious adverse event that had been documented with the vaccine in trail arm in Europe and made sure I was ok with continuing to proceed. I was, of course, still on board. We went over my complete medical history and current medications.
Then I went into another room and my vital signs were checked, a Covid nasal swab was done and blood drawn. Next a nice young man came in and helped me download register on the trial participant app that I would use to track any symptoms I may have while participating in the trial.
Finally, I went to another room, sat in a recliner and another nurse gave me my shot. I barely felt a thing. I was told to wait there for the next 15 minutes for observation before I went on my way.
A week later the Pfizer vaccine was approved for Emergency Use Authorization. Front line health care providers were first on the list. Since I occasionally do hospital rounds for vascular patients, I was on that list. BUUUUTTTT, I’m in a trial. What a conundrum! Well, I had decided to wait. I joined a Facebook group for people participating in various clinical trials. The question had come up and some frontline health care workers participating in trials for other vaccines reported that they had been unblinded so that they could get a vaccine and be protected, since they had the received a placebo in their trial. At my follow up visit I will ask what the study coordinators for my trial have in mind for us. I could of course drop out of the trial, but I’m hoping to avoid that as I entered the trial not to get a vaccine, but to contribute to the science. We’ll see what happens in a couple of weeks….