Huntsville woman shares her experience with Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — For months pharmaceutical companies have conducted COVID-19 vaccine trials as they work to make a vaccine publicly available.

Ilsa Bick and her husband said they absolutely wanted to be a part of the process. So they got involved in September.

“The original visit was something like two, two and a half hours because they go through an interview, they do a test,” said Bick. “They take your blood and then they give you either the vaccine or the placebo. The placebo is just saline.”

Three weeks later the couple went back for their second dose. Bick said she fared fine with minor side effects. But she and her husband were adamant about participating for a couple of reasons. Primarily because of their medical backgrounds.

“We’re physicians and there’s just so much fear out there, and so much misunderstanding of what vaccine trials are about,” said Bick.

She hopes sharing her experience is reassuring for people who may be on the fence about a vaccine.

“Don’t be afraid,” Bick said. “You should actually be way more afraid of what this virus can do to you if you get sick.”

Still some remain concerned the vaccine was developed rather quickly.

“Well I can understand their concern because you say, ‘gee you know we’ve never done anything like this before,’ and it’s true,” Bick said. “This is a novel vaccine that Pfizer’s come up with, it’s totally different than vaccines in the past.”

That said, the now retired physician said there’s really nothing to fear. She compared the virus to a syringe.

“There’s the covering and the needle which would be the spike protein. Then there’s all the guts of the virus inside,” Bick said. “The way a virus works is by attaching to a cell injecting the guts into your cells and then using the machinery of your cells to make more of itself. This vaccine is only against the needle. All it’s designed to do is to stop the virus from attaching to yourselves and making more of itself.”

Bick said she trusts science, believes the vaccine would do people a world of good, and wishes some would stop downplaying the virus itself.

“It is a huge deal. When you know you’ve got hospitals that can’t handle it. I mean I used to work in hospitals, so I know what it’s like when you know you can’t help patients,” she said. ” I know what it’s like to watch people. I think that’s the other thing I remember how helpless I would feel.”

Though data has shown different people have different outcomes with COVID-19 and when a vaccine is available they may have a different experience, Bick said one thing is certain.

“It’s better to be a little uncomfortable from the vaccine than to be even a little bit dead,” she said.

Pfizer has submitted its data to the FDA for emergency use authorization, as have a couple of other companies. Federal officials said the rollout of the vaccine could begin in the next few weeks, as early as mid-December.

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