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UVM AstraZeneca vaccine trial underway

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 6:32 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A coronavirus vaccine trial at the UVM Medical Center is underway and so far includes about 10 people. Dom Amato spoke to some of the first participants.

“I check a lot of boxes, I am an older, Latino, male nurse,” said Milton Rosa-Ortiz, a hematology and oncology nurse at the UVMMC who is taking part in the vaccine trial.

Being in a potentially high COVID exposure environment likely led him to be selected in the study at the hospital and he got his first shot Tuesday. “I felt great. I was like, ‘Woo-hoo, I probably got the placebo.’ Well, I woke up today and was like, whoa,” Rosa-Ortiz said. He says he’s feeling more tired than usual.

Other flu-like symptoms that can accompany the vaccine are what Don Stevens is feeling. The chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk - Abenaki Nation is also taking part in the study. “I think the risk of getting the COVID virus is probably higher than the risk of the symptoms of the vaccine in my mind,” he said.

Stevens also got the shot Tuesday and said he chose to be part of the study to be a model for native people. “It’s what families do -- they protect each other. That’s all we’re trying to do. There’s so few of us,” he said. “In this trial. I am trying to make sure that we are not overlooked.”

Both Stevens and Rosa-Ortiz said it was similar to a flu shot and they felt some soreness in their arms later.

"The safety review and the rigor of the process -- I think by the time any of these are FDA reviewed, I’d be happy taking any of these vaccines, " said UVM’s Dr. Beth Kirkpatrick, one of the leaders of the local research team. She says they have received more than 2,000 applications to participate. At least 250 will be a part of the study here and 30,000 nationwide. Two-thirds of participants will get a vaccine and 1/3 will get a placebo. Participants we spoke with agree that any potential risk outweighs the long-term benefits.

“Ultimately, it wouldn’t change for me if I got the placebo or the actual vaccine, it’s being part of the process of helping this move forward,” Rosa-Ortiz said.

UVM is testing a vaccine produced by AstraZenca. It has passed phase 1 and 2 safety trials and is still considered a leading candidate. This week, Pfizer announced that research on its vaccine showed a 90% effectiveness rate.

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