Coronavirus vaccine: Infectious disease doctor who got the jab reveals her experience

Danielle Zoellner
·3 min read
Multiple US companies are running Phase 3 trials for coronavirus vaccines (AP)
Multiple US companies are running Phase 3 trials for coronavirus vaccines (AP)

Dr Lisa Fitzpatrick, a Black infectious diseases doctor and medical epidemiologist based in Washington DC, volunteered herself as one of the first in America to join a coronavirus vaccine trial.

In an article she wrote for Business Insider, the 52-year-old doctor explained her drive to join a trial was rooted in wanting the public to feel more confident towards the Covid-19 vaccine.

“I enrolled in a Covid-19 vaccine trial to show other Black people how much I believe in science and the importance of vaccines and that I trust the vaccine research process,” she wrote.

A distrust formed between the Black community and health professionals long ago due to the discrimination and exploitation people experienced in an effort to make medical advancements. Historically, medicine was used on Black bodies without the person’s consent, and the graves of Black people were even robbed so doctors could perform surgical examinations.

Dr Fitzpatrick acknowledged this distrust by mentioning the conversations she’s had with people throughout the pandemic in regards to taking a coronavirus vaccine.

“During a chat with one middle-aged gentleman, I asked what it would take for him to accept a vaccination. He said, ‘If I could see other Black people working on it and associated with it,’” she wrote.

These conversations encouraged her to apply for George Washington University’s Phase 3 study for its vaccine trial sponsored by Moderna. The doctor wasn’t afraid to join the trial, she said, because she knew “Phase 3 means the vaccine has already been shown to be safe.”

Dr Fitzpatrick then detailed the process of joining a vaccine trial, which included her showing up to the infectious diseases clinic at George Washington to answer questions and fill out a consent form.

“Given the protections like informed consent coupled with involvement and participation of Black scientists and researchers like me, I want people to understand the process is voluntary and safe and that at any point I can refuse participation,” she wrote.

She added that the trial guaranteed she would receive medical care if any complications were to arise.

The trial involved Dr Fitzpatrick receiving two doses during two separate clinic visits that were one month apart. Each clinic visit involved receiving a coronavirus test before getting the shot, which she admitted was “not pleasant, but it's important”.

These vaccine trials are double-blinded and randomised, meaning neither the volunteer nor the medical professional knows if the person is receiving the actual coronavirus vaccine or a placebo. The purpose of this is so researchers can analyse the data two years following the start of Phase 3 to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Dr Fitzpatrick said she experienced mild symptoms on the second night after she first received the vaccine, which included throbbing in her arm, aches, and feeling tired. These symptoms lasted just 12 hours.

Similarly, she experienced soreness in her arm and fatigue after the second shot but otherwise had no symptoms.

“Ultimately, I believe the most impactful thing I can do to educate others and encourage participation is to demonstrate my confidence in vaccine science by creating transparency around my experience,” she wrote.

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