Up to 100 Hawaii volunteers needed for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trial


HONOLULU (KHON) – President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he wants a COVID-19 vaccine available before the November 3 election. 

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

But on Tuesday, Pfizer’s Chief Executive Dr. Albert Bourla announced that the possibility of that happening is “nearly impossible.” 

“I think that’s a pretty good prediction,” said Dr. David Fitz-Patrick, who is the chief investigator that is overseeing over 550 Hawaii volunteers. “You have to do the science, we have to be super careful. We don’t want to put out a vaccine that is not effective or is not safe.” 

Fitz-Patrick said that 42,000 people worldwide volunteered for Pfizer’s vaccine trial. In September, the trial was expanded to 44,000 volunteers. 

Volunteers are injected with the vaccine or a placebo shot. Those who receive the placebo shot are chosen at random. 

“Everything is looking good with this vaccine. It looks like it’s going to be very safe,” said Fitz-Patrick.

Doctor Albert Lin at Wahiawa General Hospital, businessman Joe Ho and retired Honolulu Police Department detective Gary Lahens are among the hundreds of Hawaii residents participating in the trial. 

Of the three, Lahens experienced severe side effects that lasted for 10 hours.

“I was shaking all over. My teeth, my hands were shaking! I was getting worried. It was a moment of anxiety. I had a fever. I covered myself with three comforters and it still wasn’t working,” Lahens recalled.

“That’s a sign your body is reacting to the vaccine,” explained Fitz-Patrick.

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” KHON2’s Brigette Namata asked. 

“That depends on your perspective,” Fitz-Patrick responded. “I don’t know who gets the vaccine, and people participating in the study don’t know. But if you have a reaction to it, you might jump to the conclusion that you got the vaccine.” 

“I’m doing my part to protect my family and the public. I’m risking my life to do that. That’s how I feel,” said Ho. 

“I’m biased because I’m in health care,” Lin admitted. “Having taken care of people directly, I’ve seen people die from it, I’ve seen people recover from it. This is one of the major moments in our lifetime for humanity where we need to trust this process because it’s more than just us.”

“I just hope this thing works because I need to get out of here and start traveling, like I used to!” Said Lahens. 

Before the trial ends, Fitz-Patrick said that 100 more local volunteers are needed.

“We’re aiming for a total of 44,000 people worldwide. The goal is to show the vaccine works. Once we’ve get 44,000 volunteers immunized, it’s a matter of waiting until there are 32 infections (of COVID-19), and then the data monitoring safety board—an independent board not connected to Pfizer—can determine whether the vaccine is effective. It would have to be 77% effective to be confident that it worked.” 

To participate in the study, volunteers must be between ages 18-55.

Researchers are looking for volunteers in the “high-risk” category, including those with underlying health conditions, first responders, healthcare workers, and essential workers, such as grocery store employees. 

To sign up, go here

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