SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Researchers are racing to find a vaccine that can prevent the coronavirus. At least 20 are reportedly in development around the world. Vaccine trials typically involve extensive animal studies to make certain the vaccines are effective and, of course, safe. But with more than 200,000 people now infected around the world, the research and testing is being fast-tracked.
The first human trials got underway this week, using a vaccine developed by the biotechnology company Moderna, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. And the first person to get that shot was Jennifer Haller of Seattle, who joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.
JENNIFER HALLER: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
SIMON: How are you feeling?
HALLER: I'm feeling great. I mean, as far as the vaccine goes, I'm feeling great. My arm was a little bit sore the next day, but besides that, no side effects that I'm experiencing.
SIMON: This vaccine didn't go through the usual phase of animal testing. Did the doctors involved tell you that there were possible risks?
HALLER: Yeah, absolutely. You know, there was a 45-page waiver that I signed (laughter). And, you know, there's the usual vaccination risks - you know, soreness at site of injection and body aches and nausea, things like that. And then there's the complete unknown - you know, the big one. This one has not been tested in humans before.
SIMON: Unlike some other vaccines - the traditional way, if you please - the vaccine you've been given has no derivative from coronavirus, right?
HALLER: That is correct. So there's no risk to me throughout any part of this study to contract coronavirus. Of course, you know, I could contract it in real life. But as being part of the study, I will never be exposed to the virus.
SIMON: I gather you're the mother of two teenagers.
HALLER: That's correct. Yes.
SIMON: What made you decide to volunteer for this?
HALLER: Well, you know, we all feel so helpless right now. And I have so much privilege being healthy. You know, my kids are older. I have friends and family nearby. I have a great job in the tech sector in Seattle, you know, that provides me a lot of flexibility to work from home or work - you know, flexibility in when and how I work. I'm going to maintain a salary through all this.
I wanted to do something because there's so many millions of Americans that don't have the same privilege that I've been given. This was just something that I could do and that I wanted to do.
SIMON: I guess - what? - you'll get two shots, 28 days apart.
HALLER: That is correct, yeah.
SIMON: And they're going to keep checking on you?
HALLER: Yeah. After the first shot on Monday, I'll go back in for a blood draw a week from Monday, and then another week following that. And then, yeah, 28 days after the first shot, I'll get a second one. We'll do the same follow-ups. And then throughout the next 14 months, I'll have a handful of follow-ups for blood draws. But that's all.
SIMON: Well, I hope, for a lot of different reasons and a lot of different people, that this works out.
HALLER: Me, too. You know, this is just the first of many, many studies that are coming. You know, the chances of this being the right one - the exact, right one - I don't know what the chances are. But there's a lot happening, a lot of people working on this. And this is just, you know, the first tiny step of many, many steps that are going to get us to the right place.
SIMON: The Jennifer isn't a bad name for a vaccine. I don't know if that's occurred to you.
HALLER: (Laughter) No, I have nothing to do with it. I just got lucky that I got selected. There's nothing there.
SIMON: Jennifer Haller, thanks so much for being with us.
HALLER: Thank you so much. It was my pleasure.
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