Pfizer vaccine study participants who had placebo now get active vaccine

Updated: Jan. 8, 2021 at 5:55 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Before millions of Americans could begin receiving a coronavirus vaccine, thousands had to participate in the clinical studies. Two of those studies have been conducted in South Mississippi for the Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZenica COVID-19 vaccines.

But those studies were double-blind, meaning half the people didn’t get the active vaccine. Today, those that got the placebo began receiving the active vaccine.

For Linda Clark, a Biloxi clinical pharmacist that participated in the trials for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, it was a rare opportunity for the scientist to become the subject of an experiment

Clark had several things motivating her to be a participant in the clinical studies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. As a clinical pharmacist, she understands how studies work and how important they are to advancing science.

“I think that taking the vaccine and having trust in our scientists,” said Clark. “I think that is the only way for us to get back to the way of life as we know it.”

She also wanted to help provide a well-rounded study group for the vaccine.

“African-Americans, we are very underrepresented in clinical trials and research because of our history with research,” said Clark referring to the infamous syphilis studies conducted on unknowing participants at the Tuskegee Institute.

Clark said she is a strong advocate of people being vaccinated, especially against the novel coronavirus.

“I give them the facts, don’t listen to all the negative stuff, just these are the facts,” Clark said. “Then you have to make the choice whether the benefits outweigh the risks, but I’m going to give you the facts and hopefully, I can change your mind.”

As a medical employee of the Biloxi Veterans Affairs, Clark could have received a vaccine in December. Instead, she chose to continue her role in the double-blind study at MedPharmics in Gulfport, even though she was pretty sure she had received the placebo.

“I was aware of the dangers,” said Clark. “I was also aware that it was a 50-50 chance that I would get the placebo or the active drug. It would have been better if I had gotten the active drug at first, but that’s fine.”

On Friday, Clark and other study participants who received the placebo began to receive the active vaccine. Other study participants who received the placebo will receive the active vaccine following the state’s guidelines for vaccination eligibility.

Linda Ortega, a child care worker, also received the placebo. She was notified earlier this week, though she was also sure she did not receive the vaccine. Both she and Clark said they did not experience any muscle soreness at the injection site commonly associated with the vaccine.

“I did not want to get COVID,” said Ortega. “I would do anything not to get the virus. So I knew it was a 50-50 shot of me getting the actual vaccine or me getting the placebo, but that was a chance I wanted to take.”

Clark said she hopes her participation will encourage others.

“I tell people, I participated in the research study. And so if that helps someone make that decision, then I’m happy to do that,” said Clark.

MedPharmics is currently recruiting participants for phase 3 clinical trials of the vaccine developed by Novavax.

If you want to participate in the study, call MedPharmics at 228-206-1283

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