Insights from a COVID-19 vaccine trial participant
Last updated Jan. 21, 2021
Over his 27-year career at MD Anderson, Steven Sherman, M.D., chair of Endocrine Neoplasia and Hormonal Disorders, has played a major role in dozens of clinical trials – some of which have resulted in life-saving treatments for rare forms of thyroid cancer.
Sherman, moving from principal investigator to clinical trial participant, recently enrolled in a Phase III clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“After years of putting patients on clinical trials and referring them for clinical trials, here was a situation where I could make a contribution as a research subject to a critical public health issue,” he says.
Confidence in the COVID-19 clinical trial process
Although the vaccine development process has been accelerated during the pandemic, Sherman says he didn’t hesitate to participate in the clinical trial. Before participating, he was able to read all the protocols and knew what to expect thanks to the transparency and intense scrutiny built into the clinical trial process and into medical research.
“Specifically, in the COVID-19 vaccine development, the public availability of protocols and documents has been wonderful,” he says. “The amount of peer review and scrutiny is far beyond what we typically would experience.”
Sherman says the ability to access information gave him a tremendous amount of confidence, not in the specific product as much as in the process.
After a thorough enrollment and screening history process, Sherman received an injection of the vaccine candidate in early November. Volunteers in the study received either the vaccine or a placebo shot and weren’t told which they’d received. So far, Sherman hasn’t reported any side effects in the biweekly questionnaires he fills out.
He hopes that sharing his story of participating in a vaccine clinical trial will reassure others about the vaccine development process, especially once complete trial data is publicly reported and products begin to receive Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“There’s a lot of information available that can answer your questions and help you make an informed personal decision,” he says. “Whether a person chooses to be vaccinated or not, we’ll all continue to do what we can to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and the risk to our immunocompromised patients.”
Next steps for COVID-19 vaccination
Until the vaccine is widely available, it’s important for everyone to continue taking precautions such as wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands frequently. That’s true even after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine. These precautions will be necessary until public health experts advise otherwise.