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“I joined a Phase III COVID Vaccine Study to Reduce My Odds of Landing in the ICU”

By Margaux Austin | March 19, 2021 | 3 min read | Community Health

Paul Miller stands in his neighborhood street, smiling, with his hands in his pockets

Last March, when the COVID-19 virus started to hit the U.S.Paul Miller was in Athens, Greece with his daughter. When they landed in Greece, part of Italy had just started to lock down. By the time they left, just three days later, all of Italy was completely shut down.

Paul heard stories of the virus spreading quickly throughout New York and New Jersey, and he became eager to get home safely.

As a person who previously had a few bouts with bronchitis, Paul was fearful of COVID-19. Bronchitis clogs up the lungs and makes breathing very difficult. It stays with the infected person for several weeks — an experience that is extremely unpleasant. To Paul, COVID-19 sounded like a terrible case of bronchitis, and he didn’t want anything to do with it.

“I fall into a high-risk group and imagined myself on a ventilator, sad and alone with no contact with my family,” said Paul. So, in order to try to reduce my odds of a stay in the ICU, I focused on getting in a Phase III COVID-19 vaccine study.

Fortunately, Paul found a COVID-19 study at a hospital not too far from him. During randomized controlled trials, such as this one, half of the participants receive a placebo and the other half receive the medicine (in this case, the vaccine). Participation doesn’t guarantee you’ll get protected; however, it can improve your odds significantly. 

“I participated in the ModernaTX vaccine study and got two doses four weeks apart. There is a significant amount of paperwork and medical history, but I felt it was necessary. In addition, about 8 tubes of blood are taken on each visit along with a COVID-19 test each time, Paul said. 

On the first shot, Paul didn’t feel a thingThey made him turn away when giving the shot so he could not see inside the vial.  

“I thought they just tapped my shoulder since I didn’t feel anything. But about a day later, my shoulder was sore. 

As part of the study, the participants must keep track of their physical status, such as any pains, changes in temperature, headaches, body aches, and so on. Besides his sore shoulder, Paul’s body temperature briefly dropped to 96 degrees after the first dose. It went away after one day, but Paul remembered thinking it was odd. At this point, Paul thought he had received the placebo because he didn’t feel any different than before the shot. 

After the second shot, four weeks later, he had a different reaction.  

That day my temperature increased by one full degree from the start of my visit to the end of my visit,” he said. “I just assumed that was some sort of technical issue and didn’t really think it was significant. 

The next day when he woke up, he felt very tired and did not feel like getting out of bed. Every hour, he tried to get up, but he was so tired he couldn’t even turn his body onto his side.  

I did manage to crawl out of bed at 11:30 am. I needed to report my condition on the app by noon. When I took my temperature, it was 100.4. I was surprised. After I took my temperature in the morning, I crawled to my couch. I stayed there for several hours as my body became sorer. I decided to take a bath in Epsom salt and went to bed early.”

Two days later, all his symptoms were gone, and he was back to normal. Based on his reaction, Paul figured he received the vaccine and not the placebo. 

In mid-January, the results were shared with participantsPaul had indeed received the vaccine.  

“That made me very happy,” Paul said. My daughter no longer feels like she needs to block my car in the driveway and take my keys so I don’t go anywhere and catch the virus. I feel free. However, I still practice wearing my mask, keeping my distance, and I’m careful how many people I’m around. 

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine and following the 3Ws (wear, wait, wash) are the best protections against COVID-19. At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, we want our members, and all North Carolinians, to have the information they need when it comes to COVI-19 vaccines.

Find important vaccine information and resources in one convenient place to help you stay informed: https://www.bluecrossnc.com/covid-19