Op-Ed, Opinion

I survived the vaccine. So will you

As we all suffer through months of isolation and fear of sickness, my inner entrepreneurship drives me to get involved with solving another tough healthcare problem. Working on a team to develop the EpiPen makes it seem easy to bring a treatment for a virus. Not true.

When the announcement was made that Moderna was looking for trial candidates to test new compounds for the COVID-19 issue, I had to apply. In self-assessment, I had to admit that I was suffering from COVID fatigue, and achieving freedom was a motivator to enroll in the trial. After reading about the results of the Phase II clinical trial from Moderna, I felt that there was a low risk of morbidity from the vaccine. The actual trial was designed to be double-blinded, so neither the volunteers nor the administrators would know if they got the new, mRNA(genetic-engineered) vaccine or the saline (salt water) placebo. There were 20,000 people in each category.

After being notified that I qualified—over 65 and no known illnesses—I showed up at the Research Center hoping for the real thing. After I was told that the trial would last 24 months and I would have to endure being needled for 24 vials of blood over 3 visits, enter data into an eDiary daily for 60 straight days and then weekly for six months, plus weekly safety calls, I felt that I wasn’t sure it was worth my volunteering to help mankind.

The first injection went smoothly, but the visit took 4 and a half hours since I had a full physical, drew blood and had to be observed for an allergic reaction for one hour while taking blood pressures every ten minutes. 28 days later, I showed up for the second shot and went through the same process. At 10 a.m. the next day and 30 minutes into a normal tennis game, I felt the earth moving without me. I quit early and started shaking.

My oral temperature rose to 103 by noon, and after a call to the research center, I took two Tylenol. By 6 p.m. that evening, everything was back to normal. The sore arm lasted two days, no different than my experience from the seasonal flu shot. Since the trial is blinded and we are not told by the research center whether we received the placebo or real vaccine, I went to LabCorp on my own to find out if I had the immunity. 24 hours later, my IgG test result indicated that I had immunity from COVID-19.

If I eliminate all the blood draws and diary entries and think about how I feel being immune, a sense of calm runs through my body when I board an airplane or wait in line at the checkout counter at the grocery store. Now I feel selfish since the benefits of having the immunity far outweigh any thoughts of helping the trial to get everyone immunity to eliminate this horrible illness.

I survived the vaccine, so will you. When the vaccine is available, go out and get it. You can save the lives of those around you and help end this pandemic.

Rick Toren is a professor in the Miami Herbert Business School. Toren, the creator of the EpiPen and Holter monitor and a serial entrepreneur, teaches business entrepreneurship courses in the business school.

December 21, 2020

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Rick Toren


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