Placebo or vaccine? Trial participants in Carolinas learn status

Placebo or vaccine? Trial participants in Carolinas learn status

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marc Ryan suspected he received the coronavirus vaccine, and not a placebo, the moment he got his second shot.

Ryan, of Greenville, South Carolina, is a participant in the Moderna trial, and experienced flu-like symptoms within hours.

“It’s not a walk in the park, but it’s good that it’s not a walk in the park,” he said. “That is your body making an immune response to COVID-19.”

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Wednesday morning, his suspicions were confirmed when the clinical team in Greenville revealed Ryan had indeed received the vaccine last August.

From the day he signed up, Ryan also advocated getting the vaccine as soon as possible, if it turned out he was a member of the placebo group.

“I said, ‘Look guys, I’m not going to do this for 25 months and then the vaccine is out and everyone is getting the vaccine and you guys haven’t told me if I’ve gotten the vaccine or not,’” he said. “That’s not any way to reward the volunteers that have taken a risk to be part of this.”

Even now, his role in the clinical trial isn’t over. Almost monthly, Ryan has undergone a blood test to check for antibodies to fight the virus. His enrollment lasts 25 months.

“When people say how long does the vaccine last, how long does the protection last, that’s what I’m doing right now,” he explained. “We give them blood, they take labs, and then they see what’s happening with the antibodies.”

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Ryan said he’s been healthy since getting the vaccine.

“I’ve noticed no change in my physical health,” he said. “I feel better now.”

Tom Bowman, of Charlotte, is enrolled in the Pfizer vaccine trial and learned his status weeks ago.

Bowman is among three from his household to sign up for a clinical trial, and now among several in his family to receive the vaccine.

“My son found out that the trial was going to let the people who got the placebo get the real shots,” he said. “When I tried that they said, ‘No you don’t need to come by, you have the real one.’”

Bowman, who completed his second dose last October, said he hasn’t experienced severe side effects.

“I compare notes in our family,” he said. “We all said exactly the same thing. Your arm hurts for a couple days. You’re tired for a couple nights, and that’s it.”

Participants who received the placebo through both the Pfizer and Moderna trials are now being given the option to receive the vaccine instead.

Local Pfizer vaccine trial participant happy to be a part of the process