Some of my closest #AVtweeps know that back last summer, I volunteered to be one of the 43,448 people within the global trial to get injected with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (aka: BNT162b2 0.3 ml).
Yes, I received the actual vaccine rather than the placebo (21,720 people in the study received BNT162b2 and 21,728 received the placebo). My first shot was Sept. 4 and I received my second on Sept. 28; I am still in the trial for another 24 months. I thought I would put together my thoughts — as many of you will be eligible as soon as next week and might be either nervous or not sure what to do. Of course, this is an individual decision everyone must make on their own but I was hoping if I shared my story, it might make you feel better. If you have any questions, PLEASE reach out.
Well, my dad was a doctor. In some small way, I think it was an apology to a guy who paid for my college and who initially thought I would be a doctor too. My first biology class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill secured that fate. But, I felt an overwhelming need to help “fix” this global problem and, like many of you, felt helpless a few months into the pandemic. As the summer wore on, I started to notice the mental health issues caused by the COVID-year created in the faces and in the voices of my UNC students (in case you didn’t know, I teach advertising and branding at UNC) nearly every day. Obviously, I couldn’t and can’t fix what this ended up being, but, in my own mind, I felt that participating was the right thing to do.
Heck yes, I was scared. I didn’t realize how much until the day of the first injection, Friday Sept. 4, 2020. When I arrived and the first thing I was handed by Pfizer was a 70+ page write-up on what I was about to inject into my arm, I was informed that I was one of the first 5,000 people in the world to get it. So, yep, I was scared. But, as crazy as this sounds, I literally remember thinking to myself that my kids are both in their 20s now — and I had nothing substantial to lose.
Yes, it hurt. It was like the flu shot x5. I usually swim, bike or run most days and I didn’t do anything for over a week. My arm was nearly as sore as when I tore my bicep tendon. Others in the trial didn’t experience that same level of pain, but I did. I remember thinking that afternoon that I must have gotten the real shot. I believe I am a pain-wimp.
The second shot was even worse by far. Headaches and chills. No fever. No sickness. Again, wimp.
Let me reiterate that this vaccine is NOT like the flu vaccine in any way: It’s a totally new way to build a vaccine, apparently. This, I have come to learn, is amazing. It will likely accelerate a new wave of vaccines — including an all-new way to design and build the flu vaccine: a vaccine that’s usually only hovers around 60% efficacy.
Well, in its best year, ever, the flu vaccines’ efficacy was around 68%. Yes, 68%. This new Pfizer vaccine is 65% after you get the first shot and, if you get both, it quickly rises (within weeks) to over 95%.
The Pfizer vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. Pfizer provided the participants with an overload of mRNA information but, this article from Harvard Medical School is the best SIMPLE explanation of how and why they work. I hope you will read it as, unlike the flu vaccine, you are not getting any of the virus itself. There is technically no way to get COVID-19 from this vaccine.
This is my opinion: Please get the vaccine. Its 95+% efficacy makes it the second most successful vaccine in history. And, that’s incredible, considering it was developed in less than four months. As much as you all, I am sure, love meeting all the time via Zoom/Teams/Meet (insert eye roll here), the vaccine is the ultimate solution to this dilemma. Not masks, not social distancing, not “bubbles” and not the fear of a vaccine. That said, it has NOT yet been tested for the what it might do to the reproductive system. Pfizer told us during the trial that those tests will take more time — and will require monitoring of people who get the vaccine and then have babies. So, Pfizer says that will take a year or more to learn about that. As you may know, they aren’t giving it to people under 16 for now. Those trials just started last month, and will take at least four months.
I welcome any comments or feedback or a one-on-one discussion. I have received both shots, I have had blood drawn six times since September. I keep a weekly health diary that also includes where I go and what I do and have been in fear of my own kids and parents getting it like many of you, I am sure.
I hope to see many of you at ISE 2021 or InfoComm 2021— we need to be together again. I miss you all!
(Editor’s note: We’ve attached an Instagram story above that Gary did for his UNC class while receiving his first injection. The video includes him getting the COVID-19 test too. Enjoy!)