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Placebo recipients in COVID-19 vaccine trials begin to get real vaccines


FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2021, file photo, healthcare worker receives a second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shot at Beaumont Health in Southfield, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2021, file photo, healthcare worker receives a second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shot at Beaumont Health in Southfield, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
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More than 130,000 Alabamians have now gotten their COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccinations are made possible, thanks to clinical trials and the thousands of volunteers who participated in them.

But what about those volunteers who received the placebo? They are now starting to have the option to get the actual vaccine too.

Jenna Dorlon volunteered for Pfizer’s clinical trial for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It was really just my way of contributing and helping,” Dorlon told ABC 33/40.

She got that vaccine in October, but still does not know if it was the actual vaccine or the placebo.

“It’s a little nerve wrecking,” she said. “But my family and I are very cautious masking up, social distancing just because we have children in school and we don’t want to expose their teachers or their families.”

Pfizer calls volunteers like Dorlon selfless, and plans to offer all placebo recipients the option for a real vaccine by March.

“No questions asked, I would immediately get the vaccine in the event I did receive the placebo,” Dorlon said.

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“Do we really want to have more people die of this when we could likely prevent that?” UAB’s Dr. Paul Goepfert said about the plan to offer all placebo participants the vaccines.

Goepfert, is a professor of medicine and director of UAB’s Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic.

He says Moderna also has plans to give vaccines to placebo participants.

“This vaccine was so successful,” he said. “It’s 95 percent effective so they already have their answer that it works to protect against COVID.”

As the placebo volunteers get their vaccines, Goepfert says it will still be important for them to stay in the trial.

“It’s important to continue to follow them to see what happens to their immune responses too,” he said. “Because a big question out there is how often are we going to have to revaccinate individuals.”

Pfizer is offering placebo participants the real drug in phases with healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities first.

More than 2,000 of Pfizer’s placebo recipients have already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.


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