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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster being tested in Gulfport

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:40 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - While only 33% of Mississippians have received two COVID-19 vaccinations, 100 Coast residents are receiving their “third” shot.

They are participating in a study by Pfizer BioNTech to test the effectiveness of a booster vaccine.

Jim Rush participated in the initial Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine study last fall because he wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The 64-year-old psychologist wanted to reduce the exposure risk for both himself and his wife. He is now participating in a study on a booster vaccine to help himself and science.

“The only way we make good decisions is to have good information, and the only way to get this good information is you have to have enough people who will be willing to take that 50-50 chance and maybe unexplored risk factors,” Rusch said on Monday.

The study is double-blind, meaning half of the participants will get a placebo and the other half the get the vaccine. Participants will have their blood drawn before getting the booster and again in six months to evaluate the effectiveness of the booster.

While most Mississippians have been hesitant to get any vaccine, Rush likes his odds.

“I think with this the risk of an untoward reaction to the vaccine is probably in the range of 1 in 100,000. The risk of getting infected, even if you have the vaccine, is one in 20. I like the odds of being vaccinated with a booster,” he said. “And if I can lessen those numbers, or if they show that it will lessen the potential risks for us, that’s something I want to encourage.”

Earlier this month, the FDA and CDC said they are looking into whether or when a booster might be necessary. While they will look at data from pharmaceutical companies, they do not rely on those data exclusively

“I think good information is important,” Rusch said. “And tests like this will be helpful as evidence of whether people really need the booster or not.”

Rush said he is concerned about how the delta variant of the coronavirus may increase his risk of exposure with so many unvaccinated people.

“I think the people who haven’t had the vaccine, the potential risk of how much of the active virus you would be in exposure to them,” he said. “So anything that I can do to keep my immunity up would be helpful.”

81-year-old Iris Abrams said she is participating in the study at MedPharmics in Gulfport because she wants to be a part of the solution.

“Because I think we have a responsibility to do what we can to help others,” she said.

Abrams said two of her granddaughters who were unvaccinated have contracted COVID-19. That opened her eyes to the importance of getting vaccinated, she said.

“I think it’s urgent that those who have an opportunity need to take the vaccine.”

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