A Shot of Hope: Taking you behind the scenes of a COVID-19 vaccine trial in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash.–It’s a shot of hope.

Our path forward relies on these COVID-19 vaccines; in other words, our path forward comes down to an experiment.

These experiments needs people, or in this case, our neighbors.

“I would probably be one of the last people eligible to get the vaccine, and I’m perfectly healthy,” Vaccine trial volunteer Erin Robinson said. “It was an opportunity to kind of advance the science behind it.”

Robinson is our digital content manager at 4 News Now, and we’ve followed along her journey in this trial.

She jumped at the opportunity to possible get vaccinated, even if happened in an experiment like this Phase 3 Novavax trial happening right here in Spokane County.

These vaccines are being made at a historically quick pace. But, all of them are still going through the same approval process, which involves trials like this one.

“I was kind of praying I hope I get symptoms as weird as that sounds,” Robinson said.

Symptoms are a good thing in a vaccine trial.

You almost want to feel a little sick, because that means your body is building antibodies to this virus.

Out of the 200-300 people in the local part of this trial, two-thirds actually received the Novavax shot. One-third got a placebo, a shot of saline.

The volunteers don’t know which they get as it’s completely random.

Robinson’s first shot went just fine; no severe symptoms.

But, the second shot was a different story.

“In the middle of the night Saturday into Sunday, I woke up with body chills,” Robinson said. “I immediately rushed and threw a sweatshirt on, socks, grabbed an extra blanket.”

MultiCare tracks each volunteer’s progress through an app, and they’ll enter their daily symptoms in there.

Other than that, the doctors can’t say much to the volunteers. They pretty much just monitor them throughout this process.

Chills and a headache for a few days were the extent of Robinson’s symptoms.

Symptoms that prove her shot may not be a placebo.

“It was nice to know that as of now, I’m hopefully vaccinated,” Robinson said.

The possibility of being vaccinated is just one perk to this experiment, because Novavax also cuts volunteers a $150 check for each visit during the trial.

The actual shot is a little different than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

It pretty much purifies a spike protein in your body and then mixes it with an immune system booster.

“That’s similar to the way we produce a lot of other vaccine that we give already,” MultiCare’s Principal Investigator of the trial Dr. Jonathan Staben said.

That made volunteers like Ari Nordhagen a little more comfortable when debating if she should sign up for this trial.

“I mean I didn’t get into this vaccine trial blindly when I heard about it,” Nordhagen said. “I didn’t just say ‘oh, I’m going to sign up. Like, I actually read about Novavax.”

Nordhagen’s second shot also offered some reason for optimism.

Vaccine Shot 2 1

“I was happy to be sick,” Nordhagen said. “It’s like the weirdest feeling.”

Her symptoms were similar to Robinson’s; a little bit of arm soreness, some chills and a headache.

“Nothing prevented me from doing household chores or anything,” Nordhagen said. “It was just uncomfortable.”

The possibility of being vaccinated right now offers some freedom but not enough to change daily behaviors just yet.

“No, I’m not gonna change anything,” Nordhagen said. “I’m still gonna wear my mask, I’m still gonna social distance, because that’s just the way to protect everybody.”

This Phase 3 trial is the last step before Novavax can apply for FDA approval, but that’s still a few months away.

So, the thousands of volunteers in this trial across the world will have to wait several months to find out if they got the real shot or a placebo.

Those who do receive the placebo will get to be in a priority group to get the vaccine first once Novavax gets FDA approval.

Regardless, Nordhagen has her eyes set on the future.

Ari Travel 1

A future of days we can call normal.

Days where she can enjoy her favorite hobby of traveling without worry.

“To be able to do that, get on an airplane and not worry about contracting a variant of the virus and taking it back home, it’ll be so great for all of us to get there again,” Nordhagen said.

And until then, we all hold onto the hope that comes with these shots.

After all, each shot in this experiment gets us closer to ending this nightmare.

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