The vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 seems perpetually around the corner. With some countries releasing their vaccine so early it worries many experts, all eyes are on the United States as potentially the next developed nation to release to the public. Considering the dire state of the skyrocketing cases and deaths per capita in the U.S., manufacturers are wasting no time in moving forward with clinical trials.
Recently I caught up with one volunteer who recently received an experimental vaccine from Pfizer. 21-year-old Skyler Mener is a Junior at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania majoring in Social Work. In late August, Skyler took part in Pfizer’s vaccine study, expected to be cleared for public use as early as October of this year.
Adam: What do you remember about the first time you heard about the coronavirus infection?
Skyler: Honestly...I thought it wasn’t anything serious. I thought it was being blown out of proportion. I feel stupid for thinking that now but I don’t think any of us knew how bad it was going to get. I now understand how dangerous this virus is.
Adam: When did that switch over for you, to appearing more serious than it did initially?
Skyler: Around April when More information about the virus started to come out and I was seeing the infection rate and death toll skyrocket.
Adam: Has anyone close to you contracted the virus or had any close calls?
Adam: Would you say the people around you are being careful—wearing their masks, etc?
Skyler: My mom and her boyfriend wear masks and don’t go anywhere and I wasn’t really seeing my friends unless we had masks on. I’m currently living at a university now so I do see quite a few people without masks in the courtyards and walking to and from classes. I’m 1 of 4 roommates so I can’t really control where they go or what they do.
Adam: How did your interest in the vaccine develop?
Skyler: This entire pandemic and quarantine has really taken a toll on my mental health. I’ve felt so powerless knowing that there was nothing I could really do. I stumbled upon the Pfizer study and signed up. It’s a way I feel to take my power back and say that I didn’t just sit back and did nothing. I did what I could to help. I’m doing my part in the race to find a vaccine! I’ve also always been a huge advocate for vaccines.
Adam: what was your personal experience of getting the shot, was it comparable to just going into the doctor's office or did it feel different?
Skyler: Actually it was the least painful injection I have ever had. Quickest too. Shots don’t normally bother me that much but this one I hardly even felt.
Adam: How did your friends/family respond when you told them you were doing this, were they supportive?
Skyler: Some people were supportive others thought I was being stupid for doing it and didn’t seem to understand how the vaccine wasn’t going to give me covid-19.
Adam: Oh they thought you’d get it from the vaccine? Were you able to educate them on that or not so much?
Skyler: They still didn’t seem to get it so I dropped it.
Adam: As of now, where do you go from here/what is the process from the company to use you as a study participant?
Skyler: I was given access to an app that has me track my symptoms on certain days at certain times. I was also given an at home covid test to take if I start experiencing symptoms. I need to call the Doctor in charge of the experiment and tell him before I do it and send it in. I’m supposed to come back at select times as well.
Adam: Have you given any thought to the fact you may end up as one of the very few COVID-19 immune individuals walking around on planet Earth for a while?
Skyler: Oh absolutely. It would be wonderful if I am one of the few but there is no way for me to know so I’m not going to push my luck because for all I know I could have gotten the placebo or the vaccine might not work as expected.
Adam: Any parting advice for readers?
Skyler: Please remember that this virus is real. Wear your masks, wash your hands, check for any symptoms, and social distance the best you can. this pandemic won’t last forever but it requires everybody’s cooperation if we are going to gain control over it. And please make sure you get yourself vaccinated once the vaccine is ready. without a vaccine we won’t be able to obtain herd immunity.
Read more about the Pfizer vaccine: Lead COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine Chosen for Pfizer, BioNTech PII/III Study